Occupy Seattle Slows Belltown Diversion Program

A new drug diversion program designed to clean up street drug dealing in Belltown is off to an unexpectedly slow start because police have been so busy with Occupy Seattle protests over the last two months, according to

Only seven people are currently enrolled in the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (LEAD)—which allows police to refer small time drug dealers and users in Belltown to treatment and housing services, rather than face arrest—although the program could, theoretically, handle 15-20 people a month.

Members of the Seattle Police Department’s West Precinct bike patrol and anti-crime team squads, who would normally be out in Belltown doing stings on small-time drug dealers and users in order to refer them to the LEAD program, have, instead, been assigned to work the Occupy Seattle protests.

“The numbers are really different than we would have expected at this point because of Occupy Seattle [police] deployment,” says Lisa Daugaard, a public defense attorney with the Defender Association and one of the project managers of the LEAD program.

Since the city unveiled the LEAD program in October, police and the Department of Corrections have still been referring people to the program,

Now that Occupy Seattle has moved up to the East Precinct on Capitol Hill, West Precinct officers have gotten back to doing buy-busts, but LEAD workers are in a bit of a holding pattern as they wait “for the life of the West Precinct ACT officer to normalize, whenever that happens,” Daugaard says.

Because of the slow start, it’s still way too early to judge the success of the program. King County prosecutors have filed drug charges against one LEAD participant—who was caught with more than three grams of cocaine, according to a law enforcement source—although he remains in the program.