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A liberal Seattle Times columnist says he's annoyed some of his readers with a relentless focus on rising crime in the city and other disastrous consequences after its government defunded police in 2020, but he's sticking with it because the facts are the facts.
Danny Westneat noted Saturday a “share of readers” felt his focus on crime had been akin to “poverty porn,” as though he was “exaggerating fears in a blue city to make liberals, or liberal policy goals, look bad.”
“But both violent and property crimes really are up markedly — to the highest levels citywide in Seattle in more than two decades. Through July, property crime is up 25% compared with two years ago. Violent crime is rising still faster, up 35%. Shootings are up 100%,” he noted.
Westneat contrasted Seattle's approach to Denver, which increased spending on police for its 2022 budget and created a new program called STAR (Support Team Assisted Response) to have social workers respond to crimes without violence or weapons, and saw a corresponding decrease in such crimes. However, more serious crimes continued apace.
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“It looks like we still need the cops,” he wrote.
Fox News Digital reported last week on the surge in homicides and shootings in Seattle after the municipal government slashed the police budget in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The increase in crime has been accompanied by police staffing shortages, and the deep-blue city – Joe Biden won 75 percent of the vote in Seattle's King County in 2020 – saw voters last year elect more centrist candidate over liberal, pro-defund the police ones for mayor, city council and city attorney.
Seattle became a subject of national scorn when its police-free Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ) in the downtown area in 2020 became a nest of violence, danger and vandalism.
Seattle's crime issues have thus dominated Westneat's opinion pieces on issues affecting Seattle and the Puget Sound. Last week, he highlighted the closing of an Amazon Go store in 2020 for safety reasons, in a part of downtown Seattle now beset by violent crimes. He argued it showed both a need for more police and social workers.
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In June, he put a spotlight on the struggles of Seattle police responding promptly to 911 calls.
“Now, with police ranks depleted, and at least a portion of Seattle’s political class hostile to the idea of policing, they seem to be instituting white-flag waving as a regular part of the system,” he wrote.
That same month, one of his columns was headlined, “The awkwardness of a liberal city awash in guns,” where he identified as being on the political left and wondered how Seattle could handle the rising black market of weapons without more police. He added he always gets “progressive pushback” for talking about rising crime.
“I realize it’s awkward for Seattle and the liberal project right now that crime here is soaring. But it is. Acting like it isn’t is no better than when right-wingers in Idaho pretended last year that their hospitals weren’t triaging medical care,” he wrote, adding, “How are we liberals going to go after guns if we also instinctively oppose sending police after them?”
“Seattle’s botched experiment with defund the police keeps getting worse,” reads a headline from June 4, that talked about the “tailspin” of police since the 2020 budget cuts and an ensuing parking ticket refund fiasco. Sexual assault cases, he added, weren't being investigated due to understaffing.
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“Violent crime is doing a lot more than not slowing down – it’s escalating, in rapid and unusual ways that Seattle seems unprepared for, despite a renewed focus on fighting it,” he wrote April 6. In February, he noted the spike in aggravated assaults in the city that demanded a strong law enforcement response.
Westneat didn't reply to a request for comment.
Seattle radio host Jason Rantz wasn't surprised the columnist had experienced pushback for his writings.
“Whenever anyone – left, right or center – even slightly criticizes an approach or policy adopted by Seattle's progressive activists, it generates outrage,” he told Fox News Digital. “Seattle progressives operate as bullies, silencing opposition and ensuring that they get their way. It's why we keep seeing such massive failures on crime, homelessness, drug addition and cost of living. Residents see and experience Seattle deteriorating but are terrified to say anything.”
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Fox News' Emma Colton contributed to this report.
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