The city of Seattle, Washington, has decided to crack down on illegal drug use and possession in public, three years after passing a resolution to “defund the police” by 50%, and suffering a subsequent wave of violent crime.
In the spring of 2020, Seattle saw the rise of the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ (or CHOP, for Capitol Hill Occupied Protest). Black Lives Matter protesters evicted police and took over a large area of the city’s downtown, creating a haven for lawlessness until President Donald Trump threatened to send in federal law enforcement to clear the area. After several murders, Seattle’s own authorities decided to shut down the anti-police encampment.
But the political fallout continued, with Seattle’s city council backing a proposal to cut police funding by 50%, overriding a mayoral veto. There was a public backlash against rising crime and rampant drug use, with voters in the deeply Democratic city electing a Republican to the office of city attorney in the November 2021 elections.
Now, the Seattle Times writes, the city council has voted by a two-thirds majority to prosecute drug crimes:
After a summer debating a contentious drug enforcement bill, the Seattle City Council reversed course Tuesday, voting 6-3 to allow the City Attorney’s Office to prosecute knowing possession and public use of illicit drugs.
The council adopted a state bill into the city’s criminal code that allows the city to pursue new state charges for both offenses in an effort to combat public consumption of drugs. Over the last three years, the use of fentanyl and other drugs on public transit and in other public places has become more prevalent.
Opponents originally staved off the bill earlier this summer, citing concerns of overenforcement and a return to a version of the war on drugs, during which Black and brown people were disproportionately jailed for low-level drug offenses.
Many major cities throughout the country are trying to shake off the effects of the Black Lives Matter movements, though some Democrat-run places — like Illinois, which ended cash bail this week — continue to pursue them.