SEATTLE - There is a drumbeat of criticism that Seattle’s criminal justice system is broken when it comes to repeat offenders and petty crime.
On March 4, Mayor Bruce Harrell announced "Operation New Day", an emphasis by Seattle Police Department (SPD) and prosecutors from the City Attorney, King County and the Department of Justice to heighten coordination and tackle the issue.
Hotspot emphasis patrols began on 3rd Ave. in downtown and 12th Ave. and Jackson St. in Little Saigon. Both locations became well publicized projects of Operation New Day.
However, there was earlier Operation New Day emphasis on Feb. 11 at the downtown Target Store at 2nd Ave. and Pike St. Undercover officers from the Seattle Police spent all day catching shoplifters. The store is one of the most shoplifted stores in the city.
Sergeant Randy Huserik of SPD’s Communication Office told us two weeks after the operation that 21 people were arrested and 18 were taken to the King County Jail. Booking people at the jail for theft and shoplifting was unusual.
During COVID, the jail has not been accepting people accused of non-violent property crimes. Since this was considered an Operation New Day emphasis, the jail had agreed to accept the bookings, Huserik said.
Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison had also just announced a goal of making charging decisions within five days of receiving a case from Seattle Police for prosecution.
We wanted to see what happened to the 21 people arrested that day - who were charged, who may still be in jail and has anybody been held accountable for their alleged shoplifting.
Considering that charging decisions were part of our investigation, we did not contact the City Attorney’s Office about our story and relied on Seattle Municipal Court documents, King County Jail booking records and Washington State Patrol Watch Reports that provide a synopsis of a person’s criminal history.
A big obstacle came when we could not find all the bookings at the King County Jail on Feb. 11. Public access to the booking logs allows a person to search for an inmate’s records using their name, birthday and location, but not a general search for anyone booked on a specific date.
Major Lisaye Manning with the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention confirmed that it’s not possible to search for all jail bookings on a particular date and hopes to offer that ability in the future.
We filed a public disclosure request for all the cases referred to the City Attorney’s Office for prosecution that involved a shoplifting arrest at the Target in February.
SPD sent us case information for nine people. We then went into Seattle Municipal Court case files to see what happened to them.
Booking records show seven of the nine were booked into jail, with some spending the night until they appeared in front of the judge the following day.
All but one were released from jail on their promise to appear at the next court date. Only one was required to post a bail of $1,000 to get out, which he did.
All nine where charged with theft by the City Attorney, but the timing of the decision to do so was varied. The range was the following day on Feb. 12 to March 31.
Of the nine offenders, everyone had some previous encounter with law enforcement; either accused of a crime or had multiple convictions.
There is Christina Dineen, for example. The State Patrol Watch Report shows three felonies, six gross misdemeanors and six misdemeanor convictions or cases filed against them. Most of them are for theft.
However, court records show she has failed to show up for multiple court dates and now there is a bench warrant for her arrest.
In addition, there is Aliyah Rowe. The Watch Report shows the 31-year-old has three felony convictions, including one for organized retail theft and 13 gross misdemeanor convictions or cases filed against her. The cases predominately involve theft.
She also has failed to appear at her court dates and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.
There’s Samantha Cranor. The Watch Report shows 32 gross misdemeanor convictions or cases against her, mostly for theft. She was given the less restrictive Community Court route, but she has failed to make court dates. Community Court has not issued bench warrants for failing to appear.
Then there’s Rosalinda Warren, who just turned 48-years-old. The Watch Report shows seven felonies, 41 gross misdemeanors and six misdemeanors. Court records show she was arrested two more times for theft after being released for the alleged Target theft.
She is in jail and may remain there, because she is on the City Attorney’s list of 118 ‘high utilizer’ offenders that have been cycling in and out of the court system. She has multiple open cases against her.
The City Attorney working with law enforcement has made it a point to get people on the list off the street.
To summarize, SPD said there were 21 arrests at the Target on Feb. 11, but we received only nine cases from SPD that were sent to the City Attorney for prosecution.
The City Attorney did file theft charges in all the cases, but did not meet the goal of making a charging decision in five days.
Four of the nine have warrants for their arrest for failing to appear for their court dates, and only one is currently in jail accused of several other crimes.
Nobody has gone to trial or had their case dismissed.
The wheels of justice turn slow.