As a result of an alternative law-enforcement initiative in Seattle’s Chinatown International District, two low-level drug dealers will get counseling, housing and treatment after agreeing to stop selling drugs, police said.
Ten others, who apparently are not hot on the idea of cleaning up their act, will face prosecution.
The alternative program, called a Drug Market Initiative (DMI), is aimed at getting low-risk, petty dealers out of the cycle of street selling and short jail stints and into permanent recovery and stability. Seattle’s efforts at the more holistic law-enforcement option is based on successful programs in other cities, according to police.
Seattle police, in a news release, said today that those in the International District asked them 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.”
The effort began with police and prosecutors working with residents and business leaders to identify low-level, drug-crime suspects. Cases were built against 12 people, who had no violent criminal history and were eligible to be in the program. Police also identified a handful of additional suspects who had criminal histories that made them ineligible for the support program.
Last week, police contacted the suspects and invited them to meet with representatives from the Chinatown and Little Saigon communities.
At that meeting, the suspects were also able to meet with former drug dealers who had taken advantage of the program during previous Drug Market Initiatives in Seattle, had more than four years of living clean and sober and had legal jobs and housing, according to police.
Police and prosecutors told the 12 identified in the recent initiative that they could take advantage of the help offered or face charges, police said.
Two agreed to get help, and the cases against the other 10 have been forwarded 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 program.
“I believe harm reduction is key to the future of law enforcement,” said Interim Chief Jim Pugel. “The Seattle Police Department will continue to explore and refine programs like DMI and LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) 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.”