Seattle police are trying a new approach to getting low-level drug dealers off the streets – talking to them instead of arresting them.
About a dozen were invited to meet with police and prosecutors and given an ultimatum to stop selling drugs or go to prison.
Gerald Calloway has been peddling marijuana and cocaine in Seattle’s Central District for 20 years, all while clashing with police, until Thursday night.
Inside an auditorium, police laid out surveillance evidence showing they’d caught Gerald and the other dealers red-handed, but they weren’t under arrest.
“The point I'm trying to make is they showed us they cared about us and it wasn't about what they had on us. If they wanted to, we knew they could have did us,” said Calloway.
Police say their new plan is to offer certain low-level drug dealers job and drug counseling instead of prosecution unless they’re caught selling drugs again.
“That’s the deal. If they do that, they will be prosecuted for the new offense and the old one and that would be an unwise thing for them,” said Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr.
The so-called Drug Market Initiative is being tested along the 23rd Avenue corridor in South Seattle, where traditional policing has had limited impact. On streets with vibrant businesses and where families play, open air drug sales are still common.
Resident Rose green likes the new tactic,
“Most of the time we say we don't get a chance. We don't get a break. That's the break,” said Green.
Not everyone feels the same.
"I don't trust the police. I don't talk to the police. Never can trust the police,” said another neighbor.
The program is based on a model first developed and successfully implemented in High Point, N.C.
By Chris Ingalls
August 7, 2009
King 5 News