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Law Enforcement Partners With Community to Address International District Drug Dealing

Earlier this year, members of the International District community came to police with concerns about ongoing issues with open drug dealing in Chinatown.

The International District community asked law enforcement to take back city streets and parks from low-level drug dealers and their customers, but challenged police to do so without simply making arrests. SPD listened, and as a result began a new Drug Market Initiative (DMI) in the ID. The DMI program provides communities with the opportunity to engage with the offenders and support them in redirecting their lives. If offenders choose not to participate in the program, they can face criminal charges.

After working with ID community members and our partners in the City Attorney’s office to review crime data and identify a specific area for the operation, police began identifying suspects in low-level drug crimes in the ID. Police ultimately built cases against 12 suspects, who did not have any violent criminal history and were eligible for DMI. During the course of the operation, police also identified more than a half-dozen other drug crime suspects, who were not eligible for the DMI program.

At the end of the operation, Seattle police reached out to the suspects in those cases and, on November 20th, called them in for a meeting with representatives from the Chinatown and Little Saigon communities, previous East Precinct DMI participants—who are over four years clean and sober with jobs and housing—King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, and Interim SPD Chief Jim Pugel. Police and prosecutors informed the offenders they could engage with services and stop dealing drugs in the ID, or face criminal charges.

Two of the 12 DMI-eligible suspects chose to take the opportunity to turn their lives around. Cases against the other 10 suspects will now go to the King County Prosecutor’s Office for charges. Police are also requesting charges against 16 other suspected International District drug dealers identified during the operation, who are not eligible for the DMI program.

“I believe harm reduction is key to the future of law enforcement,” said Chief Jim Pugel. “The Seattle Police Department will continue to explore and refine programs like DMI and LEAD with our partners in the community and law enforcement to address drug crimes, addiction and its social impacts and find the best ways to make our city safer.”