Public safety is the number one priority of city government, or at least it should be. Is Edmonds acting like it?
I view public safety as a closed loop process between the executive branch (mayor and administration – law enforcement), the legislative branch (city council), and the judicial branch (courts). Each branch is equally responsible for our safety. And without visibility into what the facts and data that each branch has as it relates to public safety (because they all have different information), it makes it difficult to make incremental improvement to the entire system.
At the last Edmonds City Council meeting we had a presentation from our municipal court judge that should be setting off alarm bells. Thanks to Councilmember Buckshnis for requesting from the court that some statistics be shared with the public, we were able to quantify a trend that confirms what many of us are feeling. Crime is going unprosecuted. Court cases are almost half of what they were a couple of years ago, yet reported crime is escalating. We have a disconnect. Or, rephrasing a line from the movie Apollo 13: Edmonds, we have a problem.
When you compare the court’s report with those of the prosecutor’s office and public defender in their April reports, it paints a bleak picture of a public safety system running amuck. What I find interesting is that everyone seems to be avoiding even discussing the topic, let alone taking some action. The mayor’s office doesn’t want to talk about it. The city council doesn’t have it on their radar screen. And only with some prodding, the court had been silent as well. No one is stepping up and taking this seriously.
I know that this is only a partial picture of the situation too because felony offenses are not the purview of the municipal court. If we weave this information into the equation, what would we see?
Everyone seems to be working in silos and there doesn’t seem to be a coordinated effort to bring this all together. An effort to look at the data from the three branches of local government, determine trends, identify common causes or attributes, strategize on corrective action, and then finally enact and enforce said actions. A disciplined problem-solving approach.
While there are three branches of government, we should be looking to our mayor to lead this effort. However, our mayor has been missing in action. He has been either unable or unwilling to lead this and certainly has been uncommunicative.
So where do we go from here? My suggestion is that our City Council Public Safety Committee step up and put forward some legislative ideas for full council consideration. They should be pulling all the data together and developing a strategy based on input from the two other branches of our government. Seeking engagement from the citizens would also be welcome because there are many who are willing to help.
This is fixable. It takes leadership. And we certainly want to recognize and support our police and other first responders who are out in front protecting all of us. We can’t afford to wait to improve public safety until the next election.