Subset of repeat offenders falling through big gap in the system

SEATTLE - Paseo, a popular Caribbean spot, home of the Lady 12 and the NFL Alumni Association, is thriving. During the day, the lines are long and business is good.

What you don’t see is the stress behind the scenes after the Sodo restaurant closes.

“We are having a ton of problems, vandalizing, breaking into cars that causes my staff a lot of stress,” owner Ryan Santwire says.

Santwire is just one voice in a major network of business owners Q13 News has talked to over the year.

The assaults, thefts and harassment are not getting better, leading to a second report, System Failure 2. It was commissioned by the business community, including the Downtown Seattle Association and Pioneer Square Alliance.

The first report tracked 100 repeat offenders and the lack of accountability in the system as well as the lack of help for those suffering from mental illness and drug addiction.

The second report hones in on City Attorney Pete Holmes and his office, saying there are too many declines, delays and dismissals.

The report found that 40% of cases filed have no meaningful resolution.

Lisa Howard with Pioneer Square Alliance says she is constantly hearing from frustrated business owners who are tired of reporting the same crime by the same people.

Since System Failure came out, Howard says the 100 repeat offenders tracked in the piece have been rebooked more than 220 times in jail in the last 8 months.

“You can’t have meaningful resolution when you're taking your robbery situation to social media channels to get attention because the rest of the criminal justice system has failed you," Howard said.

Since System Failure 2 was released Monday, Holmes has not agreed to an interview with Q13 News but he did release a statement saying he needed $2 million more to hire more prosecutors and staff to handle the growing caseloads.

Q13 News sat down with Municipal Court Judge Damon Shadid to learn about repeat offenders in his courtroom. It was clear that a subset of people coming through his courtroom and others are incompetent to even stand trial.

“We don`t have a name for them,” Shadid said.

That category of people can’t be held accountable because they are determined incompetent in the legal system yet are not deemed sick enough to be civilly committed by the mental health system.

“Here is the flaw in the system: at this point, we don`t have any services for people not to reach the level of commitment. We don`t give them any services at all, there is no money that I know of,” Judge Shadid said.

Judges like Shadid can refer people for a mental evaluation, but they do not have the authority to commit someone directly from court.

Once someone is released due to competency issues and the mental health system isn’t there to catch them, defendants are back on the streets.

The impact those people are having is sometimes terrifying.

Jonathan James Wilson is just one example.

Back in March, police arrested Wilson for randomly trying to throw a woman off the Madison Street overpass onto I-5.

Wilson had three prior cases before the overpass attack, but they were dismissed due to competency issues in Municipal Court.

Another example is Frances Thunderhawk. In a span of two years, she accrued 37 different charges, mostly theft. All of the charges were dissolved mostly for competency issues.

“If we collaborate we can come up with something,” Santwire said.

Business owners like Santwire say they want to be a part of the solution.

“I don’t think the city council and everybody should be sitting in their offices. They should be walking and talking and working, bringing in the organizations and saying this isn’t working. We got to figure out how do we make change,” Santwire said.

Santwire says he is hoping to create a movement of business owners and elected leaders so they can hit the streets together to help those living on the streets.

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