SEATTLE—After years of crackdowns and undercover operations, the Seattle Police Department announced a new way to handle the city's stubborn drug problem.
They're calling it a Drug Market Initiative. Over the last year, police collected data about 18 low-level drug dealers operating along Seattle's 23rd Avenue corridor. Thursday night, police gathered the alleged dealers and their family members at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center and confronted them with the evidence.
Officers told the dealers they would not prosecute them, if they stop selling. The suspected dealers were offered drug treatment, job training or educational alterntives." Interim Police Chief John Diaz said " they were told 'your drug dealing stops tonight' and if they do it today they're going to jail."
The approach was developed by a criminologist at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It's been used in other cities such as Milwaukee, Nashville and Chicago.
Police say they're now watching the 16 alleged drug dealers who showed up Thursday night. If they continue to sell, prosecutors say they will file criminal charges.
People who live around the area where police are running the operation have mixed emotions. Thomas Henry likes the idea "everybody deserves a second chance, that's good.. if the guys take advantage of it." But Kailey Nelson doesn't like the idea of the alleged dealers walking away with just a warning "maybe the time could be lessened with the rehabilitation but I think they should still do something."
Neighbor John Cosley said he hopes it works "I think our jails are crowded enough, already." But Cosley also wonders how closely police will watch the people "I hope they actually track these guys."