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New initiative identifies hundreds who have caused thousands of crimes in Seattle

Seattle's skyline on a cool, cloudy evening. (Photo: Scott Sherman via Chime In)
Seattle's skyline on a cool, cloudy evening. (Photo: Scott Sherman via Chime In)
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SEATTLE (KOMO) — Less than 120 people have caused more than 2,400 criminal cases throughout Seattle in five years.

These prolific offenders have been identified through the High Utilizer Initiative (HUI).

City Attorney Ann Davison announced the HUI launch Tuesday morning, a program made to identify those who repeatedly cause criminal activity throughout Seattle.

The program will then ensure these people will have the actual help they need, and their cases will be prioritized.

Davison says the goal is to prioritize their cases, while increasing their access to service providers to bring meaningful intervention.

“It was long overdue,” said City Attorney Ann Davison. “It has to have the accountability put back into it and that’s what we’re focusing on. Because it is in that piece that we raise the standards for individuals and say, ‘it does matter what you do, and we do care what you do.’”

A long overdue plan for businesses who’ve been terrorized.

“It’s going to take a long time to turn things around it’s not going to be immediate, but the fact that they’re taking action is very exciting,” said Jay Ashberg owner of Seattle Shirt Company.

The initiative has already identified 118 offenders who have committed over 2,400 crimes in the last five years.

The people each has 12 or more referrals from SPD to the City Attorney’s office in the same time and at least one case in the last eight months.

Officials said most of the charges in cases referred to the City Attorney’s Office involving High Utilizers were theft (1,019 charges), trespassing (589 charges), assault (409 charges), or weapons violations (101 charges).

The city attorney’s office has teamed up with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to aggregate cases as felonies, and Seattle Police has the list of offenders at each of their five precincts.

“The police department is doing everything they can to curtail this issue, but we are not the only piece to that puzzle,” said Sgt. Randy Huserik with the Seattle Police Department. “With a lot of the issues that we’re dealing with, we can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

“Seattle’s repeat criminal activity, much of it perpetrated by relatively few individuals and often out in the open on our city’s streets, not only negatively impacts our struggling businesses but also community members, neighbors, workers, and anyone who visits Seattle,” said Seattle Police Chief Adrian Z. Diaz. “I am confident the High Utilizer Initiative will not only add another layer of accountability but will also help identify those most in need of behavioral and health services.”

The plan is now stirring cautious optimism.

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“The city—for a lack of a better phrase— is broken and Ann is taking the steps to fix what’s broken,” Ashberg said.

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