Curing Spokane: A look at drug addiction and crime in the city

Here’s another video which was clearly influenced by KOMO News’ “Seattle is Dying” report from earlier this year. This one is based in Spokane, Washington and wasn’t put together by a news outlet but by a developer named Larry Stone who is board member of something called the Downtown Spokane Partnership. Like “Seattle is Dying” this video features a lot of unflattering video of homeless people who appear high or drunk in the streets. But the video claims upfront that it’s purpose is not to demonize the homeless but to talk specifically about crime, i.e. drug use, theft, vandalism, etc.

What’s effective about this clip, despite the fact that’s it wasn’t produced by a news outlet, are the interviews with named residents and business people who describe no longer feeling safe or comfortable downtown in their own city. One young woman describes the scene on the street as “screaming and yelling, I don’t know what’s going on.” She adds, “It kind of scares the crap out of me…I don’t know what to do in regard to this.” These are real people and this problem is costing them something.

The center of the clip involves a comparison between Spokane and nearby Boise, Idaho. Both cities are about the same size and have nearly identical demographics and levels of education. And yet, both property crime and violent crime are significantly higher in Spokane.

The second half of the video proposes four solutions to the problem of Spokane’s crime, starting with building more jail facilities and having more police walk a beat. Both of these suggestions make sense in the context of trying to reduce crime closer to the level of Boise.

The last two recommendations involve public transportation and public parking. The justification for a plan to move the bus station underground is that the bus station is currently a hotbed for calls to the police.

The final recommendation about additional parking strikes me as having more to do with the developer’s urban planning goals than directly dealing with crime. The video claims more parking will mean more people downtown and that will somehow push the crime out of the area. I’m not convinced on that point. More people and cars might attract more criminals.

If you want to know more about the person behind this clip, they set up a website with and FAQ here. The Spokesman-Review has published an opinion piece criticizing the clip as inaccurate and shallow here.