Seattle City Attorney discusses repeat offender report

SEATTLE -- Q13 News has repeatedly tried to get answers from city leaders about a report concerning violent repeat offenders. That includes Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who agreed to sit down Thursday for an interview.

The report, called System Failure, looked at a sample of a 100 repeat offenders, and the work was commissioned by organizations representing thousands of businesses. That report showed the damage the perpetrators were causing to themselves and to the community.

Read the full report

Holmes says he understands the frustration business owners have with people who continue to show up and  harass and victimize  employees. He also says we need different ways to deal with the subset of people who need extra intervention because they are drug addicted or mentally ill.

The System Failure report says out of the 100 prolific offenders they studied, all of them were drug addicted and homeless. About 40 percent were severely mentally ill.

"We're filing the cases, my prosecutors are dedicated to public safety, but we're also trying to be smart on crime and that is what this is all about," Holmes said.

Holmes says the city has plans in the works to address repeat offenders, but that more resources are needed.

On Thursday, Holmes also answered a series of tough questions regarding criticism that his office is too lenient when it comes to charging and plea deals. He refutes allegations that Seattle has become more lawless under his watch over the last decade. Holmes also addressed concerns on why it took him nearly two months to sit down for an interview regarding the report.

Holmes went into detail about the hurdles in the criminal justice system and the limitations he faces when it comes to many perpetrators.

Holmes says many of the perpetrators are judged incompetent for trial. At that point they have to go through a civil proceeding outside of his courts. He says treatment all depends on resources and resources for offenders who are drug addicted and mentally ill are scarce, according to Holmes.

There is also the volume of cases his prosecutors are dealing with. They have about 14,000 arrest reports to process and two dozen prosecutors. Right now there is a delay in processing, many cases where defendants are not being held are taking up to six months to charge. Holmes says this is a problem, but he needs more prosecutors.

Watch this video for more on the hurdles in the criminal justice system and how he hopes the city and state will work to fix them: