Black Lives Matter activists continue to rage in the streets and inside our institutions, demanding police reforms. Many of the strategies they advocate have already been tested in the Pacific Northwest, where I live. They have proved disastrous.
Consider Seattle, where it’s rare for most criminals to see meaningful jail time. City Attorney Pete Holmes, a Democrat, fails to charge on half the criminal referrals he receives, because he doesn’t believe jail works for many offenders. When he does move forward, and a suspect isn’t already in custody (many usually aren’t) he declines charges in 65 percent of the cases.
Even when the suspects do make it to court, prosecutors downgrade charges. Then, instead of sending offenders to jail, judges usually push them into voluntary programs to address the “underlying causes” of their criminal activity. The real-world result? The offender doesn’t follow through and ends up recommitting.
A 2019 report by the Downtown Seattle Association detailed 100 prolific offenders who were booked into jail 636 times within a year. A month after the report’s release, 48 offenders were booked again. Among them is Francisco Calderon, a homeless man. His sister says he suffers from mental illness. His crimes include assaults and throwing coffee in a toddler’s face.
He was most recently accused of threatening to stab people with a needle. When one judge finally put Calderon in jail, Holmes, the city attorney, led a public campaign condemning the judge.
Similar patterns prevail in nearby Portland. Antifa radicals have occupied the streets for more than 100 nights, throwing Molotov cocktails at police and attempting to burn down buildings. But Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt refuses to charge most arrests stemming from the riots.
Schmidt promised he would only charge violent offenders, giving a pass to most everything else. He has said he believes the rioters’ anger is justified. Put another way: Schmidt ideologically agrees with antifa. Since May, at least 24 criminal activists have been re-arrested. The same activists arrested for helping to start riots end up . . . starting more riots.
Without fear of prosecution, what, exactly, is supposed to deter criminal behavior?
Even before the riots, Portland had committed itself to “community policing,” which here means less overt policing and more community assistance for controlling crime. It hasn’t worked. When you couple a hard-left community that believes “all cops are bastards” with steep police defunding, crime shoots up.
After cutting a gun-violence-reduction team, gun violence skyrocketed. In July, Portland suffered its highest per-month shootings in three decades. By the end of August, the city had seen 488 total shootings — up from 299 shootings for all of 2019.
Seattle is worse. Threatening violence, activists demanded that a neighborhood police precinct be given over to the “community.” A progressive mayor and city council obliged, ceding a six-block radius to activists in June. The area was known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.
Police were ordered to generally stay out of CHAZ. Inside the zone, the John Brown Gun Club, an antifa group, took up “community policing.” Any reasonable observer knew disaster was imminent. But after scrutiny from President Trump, Mayor Jenny Durkan called the anarchy a “summer of love” — because in progressive Seattle, Trump can never be right.
In under a month, CHAZ experienced two gun homicides of black teenagers, several shootings, an attempted rape, a riot, a foiled arson, open-air drug dealing, near-daily assaults and a lot of vandalism.
These are hardly policy successes, yet Democratic politicians promise to implement them nationwide. Rather than view what has happened in the Pacific Northwest as instructive, they champion my broken region as an exemplar.
Mobs of intractable activists don’t seek compromise, let alone nuanced policy discussions. They’re angry and want total control. Blinded by ideology, they’re willing to burn down buildings, shout down diners enjoying dinner or threaten politicians to make it all happen.
Rather than reject their recalcitrant base, Democratic politicians are mostly succumbing to pressure. It emboldens even more violence and makes progressive cities downright unlivable. Trump might thank them for the in-kind contribution to his re-election effort.
Jason Rantz is a Seattle-based talk-radio host on KTTH Seattle and a frequent FOX News guest. Twitter: @JasonRantz