Jan 25, 2023 - News

Public safety is focus of new prosecutorial units

A woman with chin-length dark hair speaks into a microphone, with a Korean flag in background.

Prosecutor Leesa Manion speaks while on the campaign trail last year. Photo: Seung Kyu Kim/Courtesy of Manion campaign

Recently-elected King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion laid out changes yesterday in the way her administration will approach crimes from DUIs to domestic violence.

Why it matters: During the campaign, Manion and her opponent both promised to address public safety and crime, which were among Seattle voters' top concerns according to a fall 2022 Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce survey.

What they're saying: "Public safety is my No. 1 priority," Manion said.

Driving the news: Manion announced the creation of a gun violence prevention unit and a felony traffic unit as well as two new divisions — one focused on prosecuting gender-based violence and another aimed at economic crimes.

She told Axios Seattle that because the crimes handled by the new units share common elements, reorganization allows prosecutors in each division to work together so "the whole team is playing the same sport."

The gun violence prevention unit will identify and prosecute high-risk offenders and seek to connect at-risk people with resources before they become victims or suspects.

  • The gender-focused unit, which has not yet been named, will address cases involving rape, sexual assault and domestic violence. It will include the department's domestic violence, sexually violent predator and special assault units that handle sex crimes, commercial sexual exploitation and hate crimes.
  • The economic crimes and wage theft division will prosecute crimes including organized retail theft, identity theft, fraud, elder abuse and wage theft.
  • The felony traffic unit will expand and underscore the office's focus on DUIs, vehicular homicide, vehicular assault and other felony traffic cases.

What's next: Manion said the changes will not reduce the volume of felony criminal cases handled by her office. But she anticipates increased efficiency that will allow prosecutors to chip away at the department's more than 4,500 backlogged cases.

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