High Priority Offender Program Reduces Crime
By our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
He began his criminal career with a burglary in 2000. Before he turned 40, he racked up 16 felony convictions. Though he was versatile – stealing cars, committing identify theft and dabbling in drugs – burglary remained his crime of choice.
This year he went on a short crime spree, which included yet another burglary. Our new data-driven system identified him as a High Priority Offender (HPO) based on his conduct and history. He was charged, convicted and recently sentenced to several years in prison.
This was our 500th HPO case.
Your Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office is focusing resources on the small percentage of criminals who are committing a large percentage of the crimes. Some call them career criminals; we call them high priority offenders.
In almost every context, it’s a small group of bad actors causing most of the problems. This is certainly true in the world of criminal justice. That’s not new; that’s common sense. What is new is how our office uses data and technology to identify the worst offenders – the career criminals – and get them off our streets.
As part of our ongoing effort to keep our community safe, we began the HPO program in 2015. We studied similar data-driven programs on the East Coast, particularly in New York, and adapted the techniques for Pierce County. Consistent with the crime-fighting innovation we have demonstrated with our Elder Abuse Unit and gang sweeps, we are the first on the West Coast to implement this program.
The HPO program is based on three elements of criminality: rate, persistence and dangerousness. As a result, the focus is on those offenders who most impact our community.
Investigator Gene Miller, a former Tacoma Police Department detective, manages the data. As your prosecutor, I worked with Detective Miller on homicide cases and on the Tacoma Mall shooting. I have high confidence in him and in our program. We are not only reducing crime in our community, we are reducing bias in the system, because data is objective.
My confidence and enthusiasm for the program are shared by our partners in law enforcement. Using data to focus resources and improve public safety is cost-effective and forward-thinking.
High priority offenders average 11 prior felony convictions and more than three prior trips to prison. After conviction as a HPO, the individual serves a sentence that is nearly four times greater than the average sentence in Washington. And when you send a career criminal to prison, you prevent dozens of future crimes.
Why do we need this program when Washington has a three-strikes law? Because not all felonies are strikes. In fact, only “most serious offenses” are strikes. HPO applies to burglaries and other crimes that do not qualify as strike offenses, but still impact victims and our community.
Our future plan is to build on the success of this program by instituting a notification system. We want high priority offenders to know they have been identified. Our goal is to end their criminal careers. They can go to prison, or they can change careers. Either way, our community is safer.
Pierce County is booming. Population is up, crime is down. In fact, Felony crimes are down 18% since I became your Prosecutor. While crime is going up in Seattle and in Washington State, crime is going down in Pierce County. HPO program is one of the reasons.
Keeping Our Elders Safe
by Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
Mr. Villegas’ life savings began to dwindle under the control of his daughter. He was 81-years-old with dementia and early Alzheimer’s. Frugal, he lived on a modest income. His savings was nearly $200,000, primarily from the sale of his home, but his daughter drained his account to almost nothing over the course of a few years.
Without money, Mr. Villegas could not afford the assisted living he needed. Luckily, Mr. Villegas’ son Robert became aware of the situation and intervened. Mr. Villegas’ daughter went to prison for the theft and Mr. Villegas moved in with his son, where he was properly cared for.
In 2011, we formed an Elder Abuse Unit to protect elders and vigorously prosecute those who take advantage of vulnerable adults. We recognized that as our population ages, there are more elders who need more protection. Since then, our office has been a leader in the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse, whether it’s financial exploitation, physical abuse, or neglect.
Just as we have been leaders in reducing gang violence, prosecuting “cold cases,” and removing career criminals from our streets with data-driven prosecution, we have been leaders in protecting elders with a specialized team.
In 2016, we won a grant from the Department of Justice of nearly $400,000 — we were one of only nine counties in the country to receive this award. The funds are being used to coordinate a comprehensive approach to protecting elders and other vulnerable adults.
Initially, our Elder Abuse Unit was a one-woman team with Deputy Prosecutor Erika Nohavec. Yes, as Erika sometimes joked, there can be an “I” in team when it’s a one-woman team. Our team subsequently expanded to include two deputy prosecutors, two victim advocates, and a legal assistant. The Pierce County Council recognized the vital work we are doing and provided the additional staff.
One major component of this comprehensive approach was the formation of the Coordinated Community Response Team. This group includes prosecutors, law enforcement departments, the Attorney General’s Office, Adult Protective Services, the Korean Women’s Association, and other stakeholders.
Our vision is to create a safe community for vulnerable adults. Our mission is to effectively respond to the needs of older victims, hold abusers accountable, identify and bridge the gaps in services available to victims, and improve coordination between service providers through multidisciplinary collaboration. This collaboration also helps us hold offenders accountable. Working with multiple agencies, our office successfully prosecuted a caregiver in 2016 for a shocking case of neglect.
Mr. Carter was found nonresponsive in his bed and was rushed to Good Samaritan Hospital. Several large and deep pressure ulcers were discovered on his backside, the worst of which was 8×13 inches and went down to the bone.
His paid caregiver packed the wounds with paper towels and Neosporin. This led to a serious infection, which ultimately killed Mr. Carter. Doctors and nurses said it was worst example of neglect they had seen in their careers. This was the first murder conviction in Washington premised on a failure to seek necessary medical care for a vulnerable adult.
We prosecute and we prevent. Raising awareness and educating people on how to protect themselves, their friends, and their family members is part of how we reduce crimes against the vulnerable and keep them safe. If you know of a group that would benefit from hearing from us, please let us know.
Sometimes people say to me, You’ve got a tough job. Why do you do it?
In the past year, I spoke with more than 200 community groups about public safety, from service clubs to senior centers. I heard this question several times.
Yes, it’s a tough job. Yes, you see the dark side of people. Yes, you must deal gracefully with endless challenges.
And yet it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I say this as someone who has been blessed with an interesting life and many good jobs.
Today, we charged a defendant with the murder of a 12-year-old girl in the spring of 1986. A few weeks ago, we charged a different defendant with the murder of a 13-year-old girl that same year. The mother of the 13-year-old victim came to court to support the mother of the 12-year-old.
These two cases stunned our community and changed the way parents viewed our world.
After the arraignment, friends and family of the victims joined me and our Chief Criminal Deputy in my office along with the detectives. Turns out I knew one of the friends. Pierce County is a small town that way.
Sunlight angled into my office and the room was bright. Emotions were many. The grim reality of what happened 32 years ago was tempered by a sense of justice. In retrospect, it seems odd to smile and feel light in such a meeting, but we did. Such is the power of righting wrongs.
These two cases were among the main reasons we agreed to join a cold case team in 2011 with the Tacoma Police Department, the FBI, and other agencies. Working together, we wanted to hold offenders accountable, deliver justice, and send a message.
As I said at the news conference where we shared information with the community we serve, DNA technology is advancing. Today we are at a point where if you’re a criminal, and you left your DNA at the scene, you might as well turn yourself in now. We will catch you.
We have been innovative and relentless in our crime-fighting efforts, whether it’s seeking justice on cold cases, protecting vulnerable victims, or reducing gang violence. To paraphrase former United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, we are forever endeavoring to tame the savageness of man.
I came home tonight and hugged my seven-year-old daughter and thought again about why I do this job.
I do it to keep our community safe for everyone, especially our children.
Big turnout, small town, good people.
Today Chelsea, Sloane and I walked in the Buckley parade. We saw horses, convertibles, log trucks, pep squads, clowns, bands, and many friends.
We talked about public safety, as I do almost everywhere I go, including our successful efforts to reduce crime by focusing on repeat offenders, our Elder Abuse Unit, and our lawsuit against Big Pharma to hold them accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic.
Buckley Police Chief Arsanto was on duty working the parade route while City Council Member Milt Tremblay was passing out water bottles from his porch. People came from all over Pierce County, including Carbonado Mayor Wally Snover and Tacoma Metro Parks Commissioner Andrea Smith.
Thank you to everyone who waved or said hello. We appreciated the greetings.
Mount Rainier looms large over the town, but the mountain appeared only briefly between clouds.
I learned about the log show, the town history, and that Chris Farley’s character in the movie Black Sheep was from Buckley.
Earlier this month we walked in the Gig Harbor Parade, which was much different and yet very similar. I love Pierce County and how the character of our various communities emerges in these events.
Lakewood City Council Members Endorse Lindquist
Pierce County Prosecutor Lindquist is endorsed by five members of the Lakewood City Council and Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen who said, “Mark has bipartisan support because of his proven record of keeping us safe.”
Lindquist has fought to stop the dumping of violent offenders, especially sex offenders, into Lakewood and Pierce County.
He has worked with the city council, the Pierce County Council, and state legislators so that we do not receive more than our “fair share” of offenders released from the Department of Corrections, Western State Hospital, or the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island.
Lindquist’s leadership has been critical in successfully blocking the release of dangerous offenders into the community.
Additionally, he started an Elder Abuse Unit to better protect vulnerable adults, reduced gang violence dramatically with a Gang Unit in the office, and sued Big Pharma to hold them accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic and recoup money for taxpayers.
This is why Lindquist is endorsed by Democrats and Republicans, unions and businesses, and other Pierce County public servants such as Puyallup Senator Hans Zeiger and Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards. Former Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar and Lindquist worked well together and Lindquist is also endorsed by Farrar’s widow, Cindy Salazar.
“Mark keeps our community safe. He is tested, trusted, and tough,” said Ed Troyer, another endorser. “We need to keep our prosecutor.”
While crime is going up in Seattle and in Washington State, felony crimes are down 18% in Pierce County since Lindquist has been Prosecutor. Misdemeanors are down 29%.
Lindquist is the consensus choice for public safety in our community. The five Lakewood council members, Democrats and Republicans, are Marie Barth, Paul Bochi, Mike Brandstetter, Mary Moss, and John Simpson. All seven firefighter unions in Pierce County have also endorsed Lindquist, along with the Washington State Council of Firefighters, and the Washington State Patrol Troopers Association.
The Pierce County Central Labor Council, the Tacoma Education Association, and more than 500 other organizations, public servants, and community leaders have also endorsed Lindquist.
All agree: our community is safer because Mark Lindquist is our Prosecutor.
by Tacoma Weekly staff
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist has reached out to school districts in Pierce County with an offer to educate students in every junior high, middle school, and high school about school violence and school threats.
At Ford Middle School, the prosecutor, his Chief of Staff, Dawn Farina, and Deputy Prosecutor Sarah Eaquinto delivered the first of what are expected to be numerous in-school presentations.
“It’s our duty in the Prosecutor’s Office to help keep the community safe. This includes keeping your school safe and keeping each one of you safe,” Lindquist told the students.
Farina assured the students that, “School violence and threats against schools will always be taken seriously. Whether someone is joking or not, making a threat against a school is a crime. For your safety, we have to take any threat seriously.”
The presentations are short but packed with information, and Lindquist’s team plans to always make time for a few questions.
Students were receptive to the presentation and the hope is, if equipped with good information, students can play a role in keeping their school and their classmates safe.
It is a project many school administrators are eager to have for their students.
by Tacoma Weekly staff
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist filed a federal lawsuit against the three largest manufacturers and marketers of prescription opioids in the United States: Purdue, Endo, and Janssen.
“Where there is harm to the community, there should be accountability for the corporations,” said Lindquist. “I’m a career prosecutor and this is the first time I’ve asked the County Council to file a lawsuit. I’m confident we have a strong case.”
Prescription opioids are a class of powerful pain relievers, including OxyContin. The chemical make-up of these prescription drugs is nearly identical to heroin.
Revenues for the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture these drugs have skyrocketed. Purdue has generated estimated sales of more than $35 billion from opioids since 1996.
The lawsuit contends the opioid crisis was created by the aggressive marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies that provided false and misleading information to doctors and patients. The companies claimed opioids were not addictive and were a safe way to treat long-term and chronic pain.
Opioid overdoses are the leading cause of death in the United States, surpassing fatal car accidents. In Pierce County, opioid use has reached crisis levels. From 2012 to 2016, the number of opioid-related deaths in Pierce County rose to 423. More than half of the local homeless population is reported to be addicted to opioids. Crime is also driven by opioid addiction.
County Council Chair Doug Richardson said, “The opioids crisis has impacted nearly every department in our county. Whether it’s the Sheriff’s Office, emergency management, public health, or the court system, Pierce County has shouldered a heavy burden in dealing with this crisis.”
The rise of prescription opioids in Pierce County was followed closely by a dramatic rise in heroin use. For many, heroin replaced prescription opioids when they could no longer obtain these prescriptions.
Seeking Public Servants
by our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
Walt Bettinger, the chief operating officer of Charles Schwab & Company, sometimes takes job candidates to breakfast. Before the meal arrives, Bettinger asks the restaurant manager to botch the applicant’s order.
For example, instead of the pancakes and orange juice she ordered, the applicant could be served bacon and a banana shake.
This, of course, is a test.
How does the applicant react? Is there anger? Is there a scene? Does it throw the candidate off-kilter?
Or does the applicant respond with coolness and grace?
As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, action is character. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in nine years as your elected prosecutor is to hire character with competence.
I personally interview all of the finalists. The future of our office depends on hiring talented, diverse, service-minded people with integrity.
The safety of our community also depends on this.
We best serve the community, we best protect the community, we best keep the community safe when we hire the best people.
Based on experience, we have condensed what we are looking for into three criteria we call the trifecta: good worker, good colleague, good emissary.
A good worker is someone who has the skills to do the job well. If a candidate is a finalist meeting with me, they almost certainly qualify.
A good colleague is someone who can do the job well and also help those around them excel. Good colleagues are team players. They treat everyone respectfully. They understand the job isn’t about them, it’s about serving the public.
A good emissary is someone who can do the job well, help their colleagues do their job well, and represent the office well to the public we serve.
In this noisy era of fact-free politics, it is especially important that public servants let the community know what their government is doing for them. The antidote to misinformation is information.
We also have to listen.
Last year, I spoke with approximately 200 community groups. I listened, I learned, and we made adjustments in the office based on feedback from our constituents. Everyone in our office is expected to communicate with the public to some degree.
People from the community serve on our juries and elect the county council members who set our budget. We earn their confidence through action, including communication and responsiveness.
We have a staff of about 220. Many were hired long ago. A few have struggled with our demanding standards and our culture of public service. We are progressing from the trial warrior culture of the past to the public service culture of the future.
Public service is not for everyone.
It’s a tough job. You’re always busy, you’re sometimes maligned. People can burn out. To survive and excel, you cannot let bacon and a banana shake throw you off-kilter. You have to find grace.
You will not make everyone happy.
If you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream.
Like many organizations, we use character-driven interview questions designed to distinguish positive people from negative people, learners from blamers, hard workers from slackers. You can guess who successful organizations prefer to hire.
Every year, some people retire or move on. We are often hiring. We want our office to reflect the diverse community we serve. We are always changing and growing and improving.
As Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has had a few cool careers, said, “I guarantee you will discover that while public service improves the lives and the world around you, its greatest reward is the enrichment and new meaning it will bring your own life.”
If the ecstasy and occasional agony of public service appeal to you, if you want to help us keep our community safe and strong, if you can be a good worker, a good colleague, and a good emissary, then you should consider applying to our office.
If you’re a finalist, maybe I’ll take you out for breakfast.
A career prosecutor with more than 22 years of service, Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. He was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010, and reelected in 2014.
Have a Pleasant New Year
By our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
“Years ago, my mother used to say to me, ‘In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”
I’m quoting Elwood P. Dowd, the hero of “Harvey.” This classic holiday movie starring Jimmy Stewart is about a dipsomaniac and an invisible, six-foot, three-and-a-half-inch tall rabbit. Elwood P. Dowd says things like, “I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I’m happy to state I won out over it.”
This is not the sort of stuff you would expect a serious candidate to quote on his Facebook page, but I know a candidate who did.
The candidate, Mark Roe, was a friend of mine in college. We bummed around Europe together in the early ’80s. He was appointed as Snohomish County Prosecutor in December of ’09 and ran for election in ’10. I was appointed as Pierce County Prosecutor in September ’09 and was also on the ballot in ‘10.
We didn’t plan this.
That campaign season, we talked a lot. I probably should have advised Roe against quoting an eccentric tippler, but I didn’t. I thought it was so original for a political campaign, and so authentic, that it worked.
Roe’s faithfulness to pleasantness wavered only once that I know of during his campaign. He called to say, “My opponents keep lying about me.”
Welcome to the club, I almost said.
Instead, I advised him to stick with his Elwood P. Dowd philosophy of pleasant. Roe did. He found campaign Zen and won easily.
In Roe’s younger years, he was concerned with demonstrating how smart he was. Unlike most people who do this, Roe truly is smart. He is so smart that he figured out that pleasant is more important.
I had this epiphany later in life than Roe. Timing is everything, as they say, and I was open to the concept in the summer of 2010. The death of my brother in June and the birth of my daughter in August was a yin-yang wake-up call.
Life is short and uncertain.
After serving three terms, one partial and two full, Roe and I are both up for our fourth term in 2018. Roe, however, is not running. The reality of public service may not be as pleasant as it once was, but I cannot say to what degree this affected Roe’s decision to retire. I can say I still love serving. Even the things about the job I don’t like, I still love.
When I need the philosophy of pleasantness affirmed, I turn to Marcus Aurelius, my favorite stoic. “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness — all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good and evil.” He goes on to charitably note that none of these things can injure him because we are all brothers and he cannot be angry with his brethren.
In other words, be relentlessly pleasant.
I have long been into New Year’s resolutions. Historically, my resolutions were a typical laundry list: read more books, quit watching bad movies, appreciate beauty, use sunscreen, and so on.
In my thirties my resolutions were about the length of “The Great Gatsby,” which is short for a novel but long for a to-do list. So I began honing them. Rather than resolutions, the list became one of guiding principles, how to best fight the good fight.
I eventually thinned it to three: live with integrity, practice gratitude, be a person on whom nothing is lost.
Thanks to Elwood P. Dowd and Mark Roe, I’ve added be pleasant. Pleasantness is how Elwood P. Dowd “won out” over reality.
It’s smart to be pleasant.
You may quote me.
Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. A career prosecutor with more than 22 years of service, he was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010, and re-elected in 2014.
BUILDING A SAFE COMMUNITY
By our Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, first published in The Tacoma Weekly
One of the joys of being a dad is reading to our daughter. She laughs at Dr. Seuss and is fascinated by the “Wild Things.” Like millions of other children, she also loves “The Three Little Pigs,” a fable about hard work and safety.
Mom sends the three siblings out into the world where there are dangers, as represented by the big bad wolf. The first two pigs build their houses quickly, one with straw, the other with sticks. They both become wolf lunch.
The third sibling, in contrast, works hard and builds his house with bricks. He stays safe. The lasting appeal of this fable speaks to everyone’s fundamental need for safety, which is the cornerstone of well-being for any community.
As your Prosecutor, my job is to keep our community safe. Keeping you safe is not my only duty as the people’s lawyer, but it is my main duty. Our office protects you in a variety of ways, some old-fashioned, some innovative. It’s all part of a brick-solid foundation.
I’ll be discussing our numerous public safety initiatives in this column. This is a preview of some of our efforts to protect you and your family, which I’ll cover in more detail in future columns.
PROTECTING VULNERABLE ADULTS
As our population ages, our vulnerable elders need greater protections. In 2011, I formed an Elder Abuse Unit. We have become leaders in both the prosecution and prevention of elder abuse. In 2016, our office was one of only nine counties in the country to win an award from the Department of Justice of nearly $400,000. These funds are being used to coordinate a comprehensive approach to protecting elders and other vulnerable adults.
HIGH PRIORITY OFFENDER PROGRAM (HPO)
HPO is a new data-driven program where we focus resources on the small percentage of criminals who cause a large percentage of crimes. In crime, as in life, it’s a small group of bad actors causing most of the problems. That’s not new, that’s common sense. What’s new is how we are using data and technology to identify these career criminals and high-impact offenders, tag them in the system, and remove them from our streets. This new program has already reduced crime and made us safer.
REDUCING GANG VIOLENCE
Gang violence in Pierce County is down more than 60% since we formed a specialized Gang Unit to vigorously prosecute violent street gangs. We successfully used conspiracy charges, gun charges, and other tools to hold violent gang members accountable. We also work with local government and non-profit partners to prevent gang violence by steering our youth away from street gangs.
HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING
The average age for children coerced into the sex trade is 12-13. Many of them are runaways who were sexually abused as children. To protect these vulnerable victims, we vigorously prosecute their abusers. We also work with our partners to support victims and assist them in finding alternatives to the sex trade.
FIGHTING FOR FAIR SHARE
For decades, the Department of Corrections (DOC) used Pierce County as a dumping ground for offenders from other counties. With “fair share” legislation, we stopped the dumping. This year, DOC closed Rap-Lincoln, a work release facility that drew offenders here from around the state. Further, we reached an agreement with DOC that any replacement facility would not be in our county. We remain vigilant so our county is never again a dumping ground.
Many crimes are driven by drugs, mental health issues, or some combination. As an alternative to traditional prosecution, we have a progressive drug court, a veteran’s track in drug court, and a mental health court. By balancing accountability and compassion, we offer help to non-violent offenders willing to seek treatment.
Juveniles and adults are different and therefore we treat them differently. The primary goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation. We hold juveniles accountable, and also provide them with support and guidance. We use innovative, evidence-based programs to help juveniles grow into productive members of our community. This is yet another example of smartly and effectively using our limited resources to keep our community safe. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
SERVING THE PUBLIC
I’m also proactive in other criminal justice system issues, including legislation to improve public safety and equal access to justice. Our justice system should be fair, free of bias, and serve all of our people well.
One of my goals as your prosecutor is to cultivate a culture of effective public service. Our office leaders expect high performance and high standards from our staff and will fight for what’s right.
Pierce County is booming. Population is up, crime is down. Our brick foundation is solid. As your Prosecutor, I am committed to keeping Pierce County safe and strong.
Mark Lindquist is our Pierce County Prosecutor. A career prosecutor with more than 20 years of service in the office, he was appointed in 2009, elected in 2010 and reelected in 2014.