Stating the obvious: Homeless camps cause crime
April 20, 2022
“Homeless camps cause crime.”
To you, it’s likely this is merely stating the obvious, but to others it’s a revelation as profound as discovering electricity. Unfortunately, much of the solution to Seattle’s problems is going to involve us stating the obvious again and again.
In this case, it’s with homelessness.
Acting on his State of the City promises, Mayor Bruce Harrell has continued to remove homeless encampments throughout Seattle. Emboldening his actions is recent crime data released by the Seattle Police Department that create a clear connection between crime and homelessness.
So far this year, more than 42 percent of shootings reported to SPD involved homelessness encampments. In 2021, more than 18 percent of all shootings incidents in Seattle last year were associated with homelessness. Between 2020-2021, homeless camp-related shootings increased by a whopping 122 percent.
Contact Mayor Harrell today!
Contact Mayor Harrell today and tell him to set a goal to eliminate 50 percent of homeless camps by next year, and eliminate them all by 2025.
Those stark figures have apparently swayed the opinions of City Councilmembers like Andrew Lewis, who told Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat that “it is blatantly evident that a significant amount of the city’s crime and disorder is attributable to conditions in homeless encampments.”
On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see elected officials alter course when facts are presented contradicting their prior views. The new crime data will also give Harrell a strong mandate when he puts together his city budget proposal, which is expected to include hiring more police officers.
On the other hand, Westneat writes in his column that “Lewis runs the city’s committee on homelessness. He was shaken by this data — not because he didn’t know the unauthorized encampments were dangerous, but because his own committee hadn’t grappled with the extent of it. Probably nobody on his committee would have guessed that homelessness and the encampments were a bigger associating factor with Seattle’s shooting epidemic than gang activity (though there’s also some crossover between the two).”
With all due respect to those concerned, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Homeless camps are much like the CHAZ or CHOP, quasi-anarchic communities devoid of meaningful law and order that inevitably attract violent people.
Seattle is not an infant in terms of dealing with homeless-related shootings. In 2016 three people were shot in “The Jungle,” a massive homeless encampment in Beacon Hill.
While the latest police data highlights shootings, they are just one of many types of crimes that originate from homelessness camps and undermine public safety. Prior to that, The Jungle had been the site of a massive drug bust. Between 2011 and its dismantling in 2016, it was the source of hundreds of first responder calls, and according to Seattle police it experienced numerous cases of “sexual assaults, drug deals and even murders.”
The connection between homeless camps and crime in Seattle was self-evident, but now it’s incontestable. Homeless camps not only deprive residents of public spaces, they remove an area’s beauty, and create unhealthy living conditions. It’s inhumane to let homeless live in them.
With homeless camps, everybody loses and nobody wins.
If we want to clean up Seattle, reduce crime, and improve public safety so critical for economic growth, then the homeless camps have got to go. How we manage and care for the homeless is a matter of discussion, but whether the camps get to stay is no longer up for debate.
Contact Mayor Harrell today and tell him to set a goal to eliminate 50 percent of homeless camps by next year, and eliminate them all by 2025!