South King County mayors blast county, state officials over recent crime surge

The mayors of several South King County cities penned a letter decrying the recent surge in crime, urging county and state officials to do something about it.

Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, Black Diamond Mayor Carol Benson, Enumclaw Mayor Jan Molinaro, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, Pacific Mayor Leanne Guier, Renton Mayor Armondo Pavone and Tukwila Mayor Allan Ekberg signed the letter Thursday morning.

"King County cities are seeing a disturbing rise in violent crime, as well as drug offenses and property crimes including auto thefts, burglaries, and robberies," reads the letter. "Our community of residents, businesses, and visitors – the victims of these crimes – are fed up and action is necessary."

Officials say the rise in crime ‘coincides’ with the ongoing influx of methamphetamine and fentanyl, the slowing felony prosecution system, booking issues at regional detention centers, and specifically, Senate Bill 5476 and House Bill 1054, which prevent certain drug charges and police pursuits. The mayors argue this has led to a lax criminal justice system in Western Washington, making it easier for criminals to commit offenses and get away with it.

"While South King County agencies have been leveraging their city-level resources to prosecute misdemeanor adult crimes – misdemeanor adult crimes are the only crimes that cities have jurisdiction to prosecute – there is a need for improved and timely juvenile and adult felony criminal accountability at the county level," the letter reads.

Officials say their cities "support many criminal justice reform efforts," but not these measures.

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The mayors say the treatments and services provided by criminal justice reform must be available, proven and accompanied by real consequences for failure. "The protection of the health, safety and welfare of the community is the very purpose of government," they wrote.

While they continue to meet with the County Executive and Prosecutor, officials say they will do their best to prosecute crimes in their jurisdiction to the fullest extent possible, refer felony cases to the prosecutor, lobby state reps for public safety and expand mental health treatment.

However, some county officials say they are surprised by this letter.

Officials with the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office say cracking down on violent crime and repeat offenders are top priority.

In a statement, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said in a statement: 

"There are multiple factors that contribute to crime: domestic violence, behavioral health disorders, and the widespread availability of guns, to name a few. Prosecutors respond to crimes, and we do it well in collaboration with our police partners. This is a list of the cases we filed in July alone. We believe that ​if people shadowed our deputy prosecutors on any given day, they would see that we have the same common goal as mayors across King County -- community safety – and we work tirelessly towards that goal."