Pilot program offers low-level drug offenders alternative to jail


SEATTLE - Business owners in Belltown said public drug use has been a problem for years, but the King County prosecutor said jailing them isn’t always the answer.


City leaders said tackling the issue has been difficult.


Merchants said they see drug users and dealers in alleys every day, are fed up with it and want the offenders in jail.


But the prosecutor’s office said arresting low-level offenders can tie up resources and users still continue the cycle.


In addition to prosecuting, police officers have the option of putting drug and prostitution offenders in a pilot program called Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion that diverts them into community-based treatment and support services.


“No one's walking away under this program, but now there’s going be a new option, not just jail for a couple of days and go back to the alley,” said King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.


“(The alley) seems to be a pretty popular place for drug use. It’s not only crack we see them smoking.  I see them shoot heroin back there,” said business owner Wayne Donnelly.


Since LEAD is a pilot program, it's only offered to offenders in Belltown and Skyway.   


It's funded through grant money that will last until October 2015.


After that period, city leaders will decide if they'll expand the program to other parts of the city.    Read more on the LEAD program.