SEATTLE — The Seattle City Attorney's Office announced a 50% reduction in Seattle's case backlog over the course of 2022.
According to a report issued on Monday, Seattle's backlog stood at 4,990 cases in January 2022. By December 2022, that figure had dropped to fewer than 2,000 cases.
The city attorney credited several key factors with the decline. The report noted that staffers meticulously weeded out certain cases that would not have been prosecutable, including cases where victims refused to cooperate in ongoing investigations.
“We wouldn’t have been able to prosecute it anyways, and it takes less time to decline something than it does to file," said Scott Lindsay, public policy consultant with the Seattle City Attorney's Office.
Additionally, Lindsay said that additional cases had been assigned to assistant city prosecutors, therefore speeding up the time it takes for cases to be heard. By combining staff resources, the city attorney’s office said it built the capacity to review approximately 300 backlog cases each month.
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As part of a plan adopted in April 2022, the city attorney also started prioritizing backlogged cases involving crimes against persons, including domestic violence, assault with sexual motivation, and other assault and harassment crimes.
The city attorney’s office also prioritized crimes involving firearms and weapons, DUIs, and anyone with three or more current referrals in the backlog respectively.
Additionally, cases in the backlog that went beyond the statute of limitations were also declined.
“Being thoughtful when reviewing cases is important, but the longer a case sits unresolved, it becomes harder to prosecute," Criminal Chief Natalie Walton-Anderson said in an April 2022 statement. "That’s not helpful to crime victims or those accused. To best serve the interests of public safety, we must prioritize resources to review our recent referrals within a reasonable amount of time."