On December 8, the Seattle City Council’s public Safety committee discussed a bill that would exempt people who commit misdemeanors because they are poor from punishment or even prosecution.
The incident drew national public attention.
Interestingly, the author of the bill had a break-in at her home shortly after, which would have legalized the crime, but she immediately called the police and asked for a criminal investigation.
People living in Seattle might want to beware, because the city council is considering a “poverty alleviation” bill.
The bill initially envisaged that a person could be exempted from the crime if he broke into homes, shops, tents and other places because of poverty or need to survive, or robbed others on the road, and then sold the stolen goods to pay rent, utilities and other basic living expenses, or to buy food.
The authors of the bill are the following two ↓
Councilwoman Lisa Herbold
During the meeting on August 8, the committee members mainly heard from two proposers about the idea of passing legislation that would not prosecute and punish some suspects who only committed minor crimes to help the vulnerable groups.
The meeting did not produce any substantive results.
However, the committee is expected to meet again in January, when members of the public will take part in discussions, the report said.
Lisa, one of the bill’s sponsors, is also chairman of the city Council’s public Safety committee, according to the report.
She first introduced the poverty alleviation bill in October. In Lisa’s view, because some suspects committed crimes to meet their survival needs, legislation was needed to provide them with lawyers and an “unsparing” plea of not guilty, and juries had to take full account of the survival dilemmas suspects faced in committing crimes.
“It gives people a chance to tell a story,” Lisa added. “Judges and juries who hear a suspect’s story will make decisions that are more in line with the cultural values our city advocates.”
When the so-called “poverty alleviation” bill was introduced, it caused a polarized debate within the government.
City Attorney Pete Holmes is one of the supporters. In an October 30 letter to the city council, he said he had been doing some “poverty alleviation” work for years. “I have tried to dissuade the City attorney’s office from prosecuting property crimes that appear to have been committed out of necessity for survival,” he wrote.
The Principal staff member of the Commission, Asha Venkataraman, attended and spoke. She says she supports legislation, but the key is to define what constitutes a basic need for life and what motivates a suspect’s actions.
Scott Lindsay, a former mayor’s public safety adviser, said it gave the green light to the crime: “Simply knowing that there are more than 100 misdemeanors on the statute book doesn’t make you liable because you won’t be held accountable?”
City Councilman Alex Pedersen also said the proposed bill would create a shortcut for vandalism, trespassing, shoplifting and other misdemeanors that could harm others.
On social media, seattle-based netizens have commented that if a person is chronically poor and repeatedly guilty, government officials should improve his living environment, rather than exonerate him after he breaks the law.
Ironically, according to a report by KTTH radio station in Seattle on the 16th, Lisa recently reported to the police that her house was illegally invaded by a strange man on the afternoon of the 11th. She heard a sound that seemed to be gunshots and immediately hid in the kitchen to avoid danger. Later, it was verified that the man was actually breaking the window with stones.
After the inventory and sorting, Lisa suffered some property damage.
KTTH said that under lisa’s proposed legislation, men would not be held responsible as long as they could plead guilty to burglary in order to survive, but that lisa was now calling for a criminal investigation.
On Oct. 25, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best made a personal comment about the city’s high crime rate while attending a meeting of the Metropolitan Sheriffs association.
“Arrested suspects are often released within a short period of time,” Best said. “When our officers patrol the streets, even within a day, they come across the same person who has been arrested at another crime scene, which is very demoralizing to the police community and a threat to the safety of the community.”
Peter Holmes, the city’s attorney general, explained at the time that the city budget was inadequate. Prosecuting these criminals would cost an extra $2m a year in legal costs.