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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

Topic: crime

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October 10, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Plainclothes Seattle police chief makes the case for more uniformed officers

Sipping on a honey nut smoothie in a downtown cafe Thursday morning, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole didn’t act like the city’s top cop, or even dress the part.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole poses for a selfie with Seattle Times editorial writer Robert Vickers. (Robert Vickers / The Seattle Times)

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole poses for a selfie with Seattle Times editorial writer Robert Vickers. (Robert Vickers / The Seattle Times)

O’Toole, who took over the embattled department in July, wore civilian clothes, spoke in hushed tones when she used the word “police,” and conversed with a personal ease atypical of law enforcement officials – all that while her department was heavily deployed to secure Vice President Joe Biden’s visit.

As if to drive home the point that she’s not an everyday police chief, O’Toole proposed a selfie when I asked for a photo.

What big city police chief does that?


Comments | Topics: crime, downtown seattle, kathleen o'toole

December 13, 2013 at 6:31 AM

Seattle’s Westlake Park feels safer. Was that so hard?

As concierge at the Seaboard Building in Westlake Park, Joseph Crudo has a front-row seat to daily scrum in Seattle’s retail core.

Westlake Park, looking splendid / ALAN BERNER, SEATTLE TIMES

Westlake Park, looking splendid / ALAN BERNER, SEATTLE TIMES

In July, that front row seat got him a broken arm and nose and a concussion. Crudo got beat up after trying to warn a man that he was being pickpocketed. The case made headlines in The Seattle Times and elsewhere because a 13-year-old was arrested after being seen kicking Crudo in the head.

The incident also made headlines because it confirmed a perception that downtown was going seedy. Fast forward five months, and Crudo sees a changed landscape.

“In all honesty, things have really cleared up,” said Crudo, a 26-year-old Seattle University student.


Comments | Topics: crime, downtown seattle, seattle police

November 26, 2013 at 1:36 PM

Civil Disagreement: Washington Supreme Court on gun rights for an accused shooter

Civil Disagreement is an occasional feature of the Seattle Times Editorial Page. Here editorial writers Lynne K. Varner and Bruce Ramsey come down on opposite sides of a recent Washington Supreme Court ruling supporting state law forbidding guns to persons arrested for, but not yet convicted of, a gun crime.


Comments | More in Civil Disagreement, Pro/con | Topics: crime, gun control, gun rights lobby

August 27, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Community should rise to fight crime spree in Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is regularly mentioned as one of the trendiest neighborhoods to live and hang out in Seattle, but it also seems to have become a magnet for criminal behavior and hate incidents. What’s most alarming is that these incidents are happening in a community long-defined by its tolerance of cultural diversity and same-sex relationships.

In a Monday blog post by our community news partner Capitol Hill Seattle, writer Sam Heft-Luthy reported on a spike in crime and at least seven different hate incidents over the summer that included allegations of homophobia or racism.

Seattle police report an overall decrease in violent crime citywide, with the exception of robberies. Seattle police are not sure whether these recent incidents in Capitol Hill were perpetrated by repeat offenders, outsiders or drunk people frequenting the area’s many bars.

The perception of a crime spree has inflated my own fear of walking through Capitol Hill at night — something I used to do on a regular basis, whether it was to get to and from a friend’s house or a nearby eatery. Several weeks ago, I feared two men were following me home to my Capitol Hill building. It was the creepiest experience I’ve had in Seattle. Our front door auto-locked before they could enter the lobby.

The Seattle Times editorial board published this Aug. 22 editorial calling on the mayoral candidates to offer “longer term, broader strategies” to combat rampant crime in downtown Seattle. They should extend their attention to Capitol Hill — a destination for locals, students tourists and transients. No one should fear for his or her safety on a city street once the sun goes down.


Comments | Topics: Capitol Hill, crime, lgbtq

July 24, 2013 at 6:15 AM

Shootings by King County deputies viewed through the prism of Fruitvale Station

King County Sheriff John Urquhart really must see the movie “Fruitvale Station” which opens in Seattle on Friday.

Fruitvale is based on the real-life slaying of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by an Oakland transit officer in 2009. The cop, Johannes Mehserle, was captured on bystanders’ cellphones standing over Grant, who was pinned to the ground by other cops,  and shooting him point-blank in the back. Mehserle said he mistook his gun for a Taser. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served less than a year.  The movie moves backwards from that fateful night to show the life Oscar Grant lived.

Urquhart needs to see ‘Fruitvale.” It would help with the sheriff’s mission to restore public confidence, following a recent independent report to the King County Council critical of the Sheriff’s Office’s handling of an incident where deputy and a corrections officer shot a man 16 times last year while were searching for another man. Urquhart was on KUOW radio this week calling the 2012 shooting of Dustin Theoharis justified despite the high bullet count. His view is backed by two review panels. Urquhart must cross the blue line and see carnage left by cops and wanna-be cops with itchy trigger fingers.

He must understand what film critic Steven Boone, reviewing Fruitvale for, meant when, paraphrasing The Elephant Man, wrote about Oscar Grant: “(He) was not an animal. He was a human being. He had dreams and feelings. He cared for many people, and many people cared for him.”

Oscar and the lucky to be alive Dustin Theoharis are human beings who did not deserve what they got from the people paid to keep us safe.


Comments | Topics: children, crime, King County police

June 3, 2013 at 12:58 PM

Blanchet freshman shooting death and Seattle-area gun violence

Students grieve outside a vigil for Molly Conley. (Photo: Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

Students grieve outside a vigil for Molly Conley.
(Photo: Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

Is the public showing more concern about gun violence since the shooting death of Molly Conley?  The Bishop Blanchet High School freshman’s death has garnered a lot of attention, although police officials appear to be taking pains to avoid seeming to care more about a young, white student’s death than the other victims who’ve died because of gun violence.  How did Conley become the latest drive-by shooting victim when she was doing nothing more than celebrating her 15th birthday with a late-night walk with friends along a residential road in quiet Lake Stevens? The public wants to know. They want to know not just to have a face, or faces, to blame but to help explain what appears to many as an aberration in the normal ebb and flow of violent crime.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s office is searching for leads and witnesses. It is fine to question who would harm the Magnolia teen. By all means, demand a thorough investigation and her killer, or killers, brought to justice. But I caution against obsessing about one shooting without asking the bigger questions posed by a growing body count from gun violence in and around Seattle. Be horrified, angry and frightened by Conley’s seemingly senseless shooting. But add her name to the growing list of victims cut down by easy access to guns and a willingness by some to turn guns on each other. None of it makes sense to me.

Folding Conley’s tragic death into the bigger picture requires that we look at all the victims of gun violence as individual tragedies. Every one of them. Even the ones dismissed as cases of living and dying by the proverbial sword.


Comments | Topics: children, crime, drive-by shootings

May 8, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Charles Ramsey, Ohio hero, unwittingly nails America’s fear of a black man

America is captivated by Charles Ramsey’s colorful story about his rescue of Amanda Berry from a Cleveland house where she and two other women had been held prisoner for a decade.  Overnight, Ramsey has become “one of those instantly compelling figures who, in the middle of an American tragedy, just start talking—and then we can’t stop listening,” as a writer wrote in The New Yorker.

Ramsey’s unwitting but spot-on commentary about race in America has been the most compelling part.  Asked by a reporter how he knew Amanda Berry was in trouble, Ramsey replied:

I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway … Either she’s homeless or she’s got problems. That’s the only reason she run to a black man …


Ramsey’s explanation is rooted in Americans stereotypes of black men as lazy, criminal and someone to fear.  Think of the taxi drivers who avoid picking up black men at night for fear they’ll be robbed, as noted in this ABC News story. Black men are too often “the wrong color and the right suspects,” as the New York Times put it in a review of a documentary about five black teenagers falsely accused and convicted of raping a Central Park jogger.  The Washington Post has called for attention to the “vast, increasing segregation of young, African American men and boys from the promise of their country.”

With all of the pathologies heaped upon black men, it is no wonder Ramsey was shocked to find a white woman running toward him rather than away from him. Is Ramsey the one to make America realize how painful, and more importantly, inaccurate, its stereotypes of black men are?


Comments | Topics: black men, Charles Ramsey, Cleveland

May 7, 2013 at 6:15 AM

Bad brains, criminal family trees and the rise of neurocriminology

An interview last week on NPR’s Fresh Air with criminologist Adrian Raine raises a fascinating question: do bad brains cause bad behavior? Raine thinks so, and has the brain imaging research to prove it. Brain scans of psychopaths show their brains are different from normal people, and their amygdala, the emotional governor of the brain,…


Comments | Topics: crime, death penalty

March 7, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Poll: Should Washington state repeal the death penalty?

Wednesday morning’s hearing on HB 1504 in the House Judiciary Committee reignited the question of whether to repeal the death penalty in Washington state.

State Rep. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, says the issue is unlikely to get anywhere this year, but he hopes a public discussion — and “the transformational impact of DNA testing” — will lead to passage in the future. His bill proposes replacing the death penalty with life in prison without parole. Proponents say doing so would save taxpayers tens of millions in court fees. Washington currently has eight inmates on death row and dozens of other capital punishment cases moving through the system.

Watch the fascinating hearing below, which opens with testimony from staff and both Carlyle and Republican state Rep. Maureen Walsh of Walla Walla. Walsh read a statement from former GOP Gov. Dan Evans, who supports repeal because “the chance for error is too great; the cost too high.” (I’ve posted his full remarks after the jump in this post.) The panel also heard from the family members of two murder victims who oppose the death penalty.

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Take our poll:


Comments | More in Polls, Video | Topics: crime, death penalty, law