About 20 miles northeast of Seattle lies the sleepy suburb of Monroe. As the plague of Seattle’s homeless problem spreads, new homeless camps have begun popping up in Monroe. One woman has been making complaints with the local police, and has begun taking pictures of the camps as proof. This nearly landed her in the hospital, as one of the homeless guys took offense to her photography. Even more alarming was the initial response from the police.
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Jovanna Edge, a Monroe business owner, said that problems with drugs, public camping, and other crimes have gotten out of hand in the city.
“They’re using [drugs] on the streets, they’re using in front of businesses … they’re stealing from people, they’re coming into the neighborhoods,” she said. “It’s really bad.”
When she noticed that there was a new camp set up under the awning of a private business, she decided to report the trespassing to police. Edge pulled into the parking lot and rolled down her car window to get a better photo.
At that moment, the man she was photographing came up and threw a reddish liquid from a bottle all over her. She did not know what the liquid was, but described it as “putrid-smelling.”
“It went all over the inside of my car, all over myself, all over the outside,” she said.
She immediately rolled up the window and called 911, but before she could finish dialing, he was back. This time, he was raising “a grapefruit-sized rock” above his head, as if to throw it at her. Edge said that the rock was big enough to be a deadly weapon.
She drove away and called police, this time to report the assault and attempted attack. What police told her astounded her.
“He told me that the vagrant had the right to defend himself [from my photography],” she said. “And he was defending himself with the rock and with this bottle of liquid.”
The chief of police got word of this, and was none too happy.
Monroe Police Chief Jeffrey Jolley called the suspect “one of that core group of 15 to 20 individuals that we’re dealing with on a repetitive, constant basis.”
The City of Monroe is working toward getting people housed and off drugs. A Homeless Policy Advisory Committee was added this year, and a city social worker program began three years ago.
“We’re trying to find every mechanism that we possibly can that’s available to law enforcement to deal with this issue,” he said.
“I am frustrated and when I first heard about this particular incident, it kind of shocked me, coming from out of state, to hear that it wasn’t a violation of law for somebody to throw a liquid on somebody’s car,” he said. “And that was very aggravating.”
Still, Jolley said that it could still be considered a crime, especially if it is found that liquid was thrown on the inside of the car. In a photo taken by Edge, drops of fluid can be seen on the passenger seat. Jolley sent the case back to the city prosecutor for review, with the recommendation that it be charged as malicious mischief.
While King County does not prosecute personal possession amounts of drugs, Snohomish County Prosecutor Adam Cornell is turning attention toward low-level, civility offenses, and has introduced a plan to once again start prosecuting less than 2 grams of drugs.
“The mission we’re carrying out is to have zero tolerance,” Jolley said of the Monroe Police Department. “If there’s a violation of the law, you’re going to go to jail.”
The suspect is now in jail, as it turns out he was wanted from other recent crimes in the area:
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The previous night, the same suspect had allegedly ejaculated into a hot dog at a Monroe 7-11 and had then thrown the hot dog and its contents over a car with a woman and child in it.
On Thursday, he allegedly stole an elderly woman’s purse out of her wheelchair at the Providence Medical Group Monroe Clinic. Police later found the alleged thief and returned the purse to the victim. The video of the theft can be seen on the Monroe Police Department’s Facebook page.
The man is now in the Snohomish County Jail on theft and drug paraphernalia possession charges. However, Edge feels that the theft from the elderly woman and her own assault could have been avoided if police had arrested the man after the first alleged assault.
“The poor old woman would have been spared if they had done something initially,” Edge said.
Edge, who also happens to be the bikini coffee shop owner who recently went to court against the city of Everett, joined Dori Monson on KIRO radio to talk about this incident.
It’s possible that powers that be are tying up the suburb’s hands when it comes to dealing with the homeless. As anyone following the stories out of Seattle knows the homeless problems are getting out of control.
In fact, moral in Seattle’s police department has gotten so low, more officers are quitting. What’s more, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan was recently caught flubbing the numbers on recent hires and the overall strength of the department, in an effort to make people think the problem isn’t as big as it really is.
Monson’s colleague, Jason Rantz, reports:
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The low staffing numbers are nothing new. After initially denying earlier reports of a “mass exodus” of officers leaving the department due, in large part, to a lack of support from the City, Mayor Jenny Durkan reversed her talking point and began an urgent recruitment effort to bring qualified applicants to the force.
The result of the recruiting effort is alarming, with a net gain of just 16 new officers (97 new hires, most of which are new recruits, and 81 separations, the majority of which are resignations) based on the latest available numbers.
To address community concerns over an expected uptick in holiday-related crime, the City of Seattle recently announced emphasis patrols in certain neighborhoods. But not only are the police staff actually available for patrol at “dangerously low” levels, the number of patrol officers reported by the department is vastly overstated, and the emphasis patrols aren’t guaranteed to happen.
Quoting data provided by the Seattle Police Department, KIRO 7 TV reported “the city has 722 officers on patrol.” As part of its answer when the station asked about officer totals, the department provided the number of “officers in patrol precincts.”
“If they’re 700 people available, then I would like to see those numbers and where they are and how they plan on deploying them, because they haven’t as of yet,” Seattle Police Officer’s Guild president Kevin Stuckey told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.
As of October 2019, the official number provided by SPD is much lower: 472. That means only about 34 percent of total officers are actually on patrol.
“Seven hundred would be a start, but we would need to probably be 800 or 900 for a city of this size to provide the services that are needed throughout the city,” said Officer Stuckey.
What’s worse, of those 472, it’s unclear how many are truly available to patrol neighborhoods, as the number includes officers who are on vacation, at mandatory training, or dealing with either long or short-term injuries.
With the mayor’s recruiting efforts in a freefall, Seattle police officers said the department doesn’t have enough officers available to effectively respond to 911 calls.
KTTH reported that the city has been using fuzzy numbers to describe the staffing situation at the Seattle Police Department, which has been experiencing a mass exodus of experienced officers for more than a year.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan initially denied reports that the department was losing officers at an alarming rate.
But in November, Durkan supported a city council vote to approve $1.24 million for officer recruiting and retention efforts, KIRO reported.
Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best claimed the department had so-far hired 97 officers in 2019, with a goal of 104 total before year-end.
But KTTH reported that Seattle PD had only experienced an actual net gain of 16 officers in 2019.
It turned out that, of the 97 new hires, there have already been 81 separations, most of which were resignations.
Many departing veteran officers have blamed the “Seattle mentality” that has left them afraid to do their jobs as they were trained for fear of being disciplined.