I had dinner last week with a friend who is a veteran police detective-sergeant. It seems, every time I get together with one of my buddies still on the job, I get a fresh education about policing in a leftist city. I don’t even have to ask questions; frustrated, cops just blurt stuff out. The current leftist narrative about the “homeless” is they’re simply local folks who have been priced out of the Seattle, San Francisco, etc. housing markets. That’s pretty funny—actually, it’s hilarious. It’s not the social problem that’s funny, but their explanation for it.
As an active cop, it was rare for me to run the I.D. of a suspect who lived on the streets who was local. Street people used to tell me they came to Seattle because of how homeless-friendly (feel free to substitute bum-, vagrant-, transient-, or even heroin-addicted) the city is. Many people told me, “You’ll never starve on the streets in Seattle.”
I’m not sure if the group still does it, but I remember years ago an organization used to set up a van to offer street people free hot chocolate. Now, that’s fine, but don’t support such efforts and then complain about the crime and other issues associated with people who live on the streets. I don’t have a problem with any private organization doing anything for anyone. That’s their right and their business, and the community often supports such efforts—at least, at first, and in theory.
Many people initially support public and private efforts to “help” people on the streets. It sounds compassionate to just give people services with no expectations in return, such as agreeing to go to a shelter or to rehab. However, how compassionate is it to facilitate and exacerbate anti-social, criminal, and self-destructive behavior?
And these former supporters sure become upset after they’d found people had been prowling their cars, poking around in their garages, and sleeping under their front porches. They also didn’t care much for finding feces, the smell of urine, their property damaged or stolen, and trash and syringes with uncapped needles strewn around their properties. Then they’d complain to the cops—after helping to create the problem. It seemed they felt as if the act of giving money and services to street people and a decrease in civility and an increase in residential crime were unrelated.
I’d give them a quick lesson in how providing too many easy-to-get services attracted people from all over the country. I tell them it’s like throwing birdseed all over your front lawn and then getting upset when birds crap all over your yard.
I’d see neighborhood people giving money to panhandlers on freeway exit ramps, street corners, and in front of businesses. Then I’d get calls from these same people reporting illegality often associated with street people: property damage, burglary, or another theft of some kind. And they’d, of course, give me an earful when I arrived to investigate the crimes committed against them.
Neighbors would speak as if the cops were responsible for the increase in crime when it was these virtue-signaling neighborhood people themselves. They were helping to create the problems they were complaining about. And add to that a city government administration actively tying officers’ hands, preventing them from enforcing the law against certain sanctioned “victims,” such as “homeless” folks. If you’ve ever wondered about the cliché a recipe for disaster, wonder no longer.
Back to how street-friendly Seattle is. The other day, my wife and I went for one of our walks on a popular path around a lake in a city park. The tents have been proliferating on park grounds. Except for one park in West Seattle that rents rustic cabins, camping in city parks is explicitly illegal. Still, the city tolerates it based on the bogus narrative mentioned earlier.
The friend I mentioned at the beginning who I had dinner with told me he was working an off-duty job, directing traffic in an area dense with nearby “homeless” folks. He struck up a conversation with a few guys living in tents on the sidewalk. He asked them where they’d come from. “Colorado,” they told him.
My buddy asked them why they’d come to Seattle. They told him it was because it’s easy to live on the streets in Seattle. “Nobody hassles you and there’s lots of free stuff.” Then he told my buddy, “Why do you think they call it Freeattle?”
Maybe the mayor, city attorney, and city council should take heed. Well, there’s no maybe about it; they should, but history tells us they won’t. Leftists seem too ideologically driven to give an inch or consider anyone else’s possible solutions. To have the problem solved by their political opponents could not be tolerated—they’d rather the people continute to suffer than let that happen. They will go to their political graves banging their heads against an ideological wall no matter how wrong they are or how right their opponents might be. Right and wrong have nothing to do with it—it’s all about right and left.