Written by Stryder Wegener
Theft and property crime are on the rise in Seattle’s Sodo district, and far outpacing crime rates in the rest of the city. Across Seattle, violent crime is up, while property crimes are down, averaging out to a one percent increase in crime. But in the area known as the Flatlands, which encompasses the Georgetown and Sodo districts, property crime rates have increased by a staggering 31 percent over last year according to Seattle Police Department data.
Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell believes the increase in property crime in the Flatlands can be traced to the city’s move to shut down a tent encampment underneath Interstate 5 in 2016. The evicted people simply found a new home in Georgetown and Sodo, which is now overrun with around 400 RV vehicles, and an unknown number of squats.
If you or a loved one has been accused of a theft or property crime in King County, contact a criminal defense attorney from Emerald City Law Group right away. Free consultations can be scheduled by calling (206) 973-0407, or by reaching out through the online form.
Increased Flatlands Property Crime Rates Blamed on RV Dwellers
In 2018, over 500 cars were broken into in the Flatlands area. By comparison, around 400 cars were broken into the previous year. The Seattle Police Department reports similar increases in property theft, commercial burglaries, and auto thefts. According to Captain Kevin Grossman, commander of the South Precinct, the increase in crime is due to the many homeless drug addicts who have moved into the area.
The chronic drug users steal a wide range of property – not just from local businesses, but from fellow RV dwellers and homeless people, including propane tanks, generators, and bicycles. Many drug addicts will steal anything of value they to raise money for methamphetamine, opioids, and crack cocaine. According to Grossman, when thieves are unable to steal a car, they may remove its catalytic converters, or rupture the fuel lines to collect gasoline.
Sean Soth, the director of clinical services at Evergreen Treatment Services believes that most of the homeless people in Sodo adhere to the law. They’ve come to the area after being pushed out of other areas of the city, and are simply “looking for a means of survival.” The homelessness issue is partly rooted in relentless increases in rent. Soth also admits that many of Sodo’s homeless are chronic drug users.
Can the Situation in Sodo Improve?
Rents are unlikely to decrease any time soon. And efforts to provide safe spaces for Seattle’s RV dwellers have proven inadequate. In 2016, the city of Seattle created a safe parking site for RVs that closed after just six months, costing the city over $200,000. Another parking site was opened in Sodo, but only three out of the area’s RVs moved in. The city has put aside $250,000 for the creation of yet another overnight parking site for vehicle dwellers, but large RVs will not be allowed in.
Captain Grossman has increased patrols in Sodo and Georgetown. And he meets every month with his sergeants, a crime-prevention coordinator, and a prosecutor from the City Attorney’s Office to review crime data and attempt to predict where they should focus their efforts. He has also been sending Community Police Teams to RVs and encampments to offer housing and other services to their inhabitants.
In 2019, the city will bring the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program to the Flatlands. The LEAD program aims to divert repeat offenders from the criminal justice system by providing them with food, housing, and a caseworker to help them redirect their lives through education and job training. The program is promising, but it alone cannot stem the rising tide of homelessness and drug addiction that is sweeping Seattle and many other parts of the country.
Contact a Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help
At Emerald City Law Group, we will fight hard for you to avoid the worst consequences of getting charged with theft and other property crimes. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers can assist you in accessing diversion programs that can get you treatment instead of jail time. And if you have been wrongly accused, we will vigorously fight on your behalf until justice is served. Contact us today at (206) 973-0407 to schedule a free and confidential consultation about your case.