Houston. We have a problem.

Citizens feel overwhelmed by crime that they see every morning in their newspapers and every night on TV news. Their homes are being broken into. Items inside their cars are being stolen and pieces of their cars sawed off in parking lots and sold for scrap. It is a dystopian nightmare.

The latest crime statistics for Washington show a 25-year high in violent crime. Property crime has also increased sharply as criminals become more brazen. Many Washingtonians feel as if they are under siege as they see those who victimize them go unpursued, unprosecuted and not incarcerated.  

Yet some of their elected leaders in Olympia seem to not be hearing peoples’ pleas for help. The Democratic legislative majority has passed bill after bill seemingly to favor criminal rights over citizen rights.

Allow criminals to laugh at police and drive away after committing a crime because police are mostly forbidden from chasing them? Check. 

Legalize hard drugs like heroin? Check. 

Try to flood neighborhoods with hardened criminals, including rapists and murderers? Passed in the Senate, but thankfully blocked in the House. (SB Bill 5036).

Why?

Legislative Democrats’ actions make it look like they are favoring the rights of criminals over the rights of the law-abiding public.

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Democrat-sponsored House Bill 1054 put strict limits on police pursuits. In her Op-Ed in The Seattle Times (“Not all crimes merit high-speed chases that risk bystanders’ lives,” May 12), Sen. Manka Dhingra argued that the limitations were necessary, citing the deaths of 30 people in Washington killed in high-speed chases, nearly half of them passengers or innocent bystanders between 2015 and 2021.

In comments on the Senate floor, Dhingra argued that our state’s worst criminals shouldn’t be confined because of their “worst moment.” But she passed sweeping restrictions on police based on the worst moments of pursuits. Criminals took advantage of the double standard.

I agree with Sen. Dhingra when she says that police pursuits should be avoided unless the danger of letting a suspect go outweighs the risk to innocent lives. But I do not agree that lawmakers should step in to enact blanket restrictions, removing the power of police in the field to make the decision to pursue or not.

In being overly sensitive to punishing people at their “worst moment” we have empowered repeat criminals to continue their crimes. For a certain class of criminals these “worst moments” are now “average moments.”

We know that some criminal rings pay drug addicts to serially steal from businesses, cars and homes knowing that in certain localities there will be few, if any consequences. The merchandise is turned over in exchange for the addict’s drug of choice.

Letting criminals go free is not a viable option.

No officer wants to be involved in injuring or killing innocent people. Before the anti-police bills were passed in 2021, police were already trained on when to terminate, or not initiate, a pursuit. Crippling the ability of officers to respond to specific circumstances, in the moment, is unacceptable. Categorically dismissing vehicle theft and other property crimes as unworthy of pursuit shows a disappointing lack of empathy for the victims. 

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To pursue or not to pursue is a question best left to officers in the field, not lawmakers. Every aspect of life involves risk. We should trust police to draw upon their training to balance risk with public safety. But perfection is an unworkable standard.

And the bill legalizing hard-drug use must be reversed in next year’s legislative session before it gets fully implemented. Otherwise, we invite a wave of crime to pay for the expanded drug options on our street. We also inhumanely avert our gaze as our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, mothers and fathers destroy their lives through addictions which will ravage their bodies, minds and souls.

And as much as we support redemption, there are times when people’s action merit that they be locked up and hopefully get the help they need to break the cycle of substance abuse and crime.

Let’s make sure our law-enforcement officers get the most rigorous training. But then let’s trust them to do the right thing. Train and trust.

I vote for putting public safety first and trusting our law enforcement.