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Developer releases controversial Spokane homeless video

The Spokane-Coeur d’Alene metro area is growing quickly thanks to newcomers moving in. File photo

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Spokane isn’t dying, but it needs curing.

That’s the argument made in “Curing Spokane,” a 17-minute video released Thursday and produced by Spokane developer Larry Stone.

The video comes five months after the controversial KOMO-TV special “Seattle is Dying,” which sparked a debate about the severity of the problem of homelessness in not only Seattle but also Spokane.

“Curing Spokane” goes on to focus on downtown crime and lays out four proposed solutions to address it, noting that the city’s property crime rate is greater than that of Portland, San Francisco and New York City.

The video proposes a new, increased-capacity jail outside of the city center; increasing downtown policing and more aggressively prosecuting misdemeanor crimes; replacing the Spokane Transit Authority plaza with a new underground station; and improving downtown parking.

 

In quantifying the crime problem and offering its solutions, the video centers on comparing Spokane to Boise, describing the two as “nearly identical.” Both are positioned on major interstates and have similar populations and racial demographics, but both the crime rate and number of homeless people in Spokane is significantly higher, the video argues.

The video does not note the median household income is 24% higher in Boise ($54,547) than in Spokane ($44,768), according to the Census Bureau. In addition, a higher percentage of Spokane residents (19.4 live in poverty than in Boise (14%).

The video does not note that since a peak in 2013, the number of reported property crimes in Spokane decreased every year but one through 2017, the most recently available year of FBI data.

Stone attributes the drop in crime to a decline in reporting due to a lack of response from police, who are “overwhelmed.”

The video also seizes on an ongoing debate about the future of Spokane County Jail, which has been overcrowded for decades.

In arguing that Spokane County needs a new jail, the video presents some misleading statistics. With a bar chart, the video illustrates the Ada County Jail in Boise has space for more than 1,200 inmates while Spokane County’s downtown and Geiger facilities hold about 950.

However, space in the two cities is much more comparable. Each facility was designed to hold significantly fewer people, and each has been renovated over the years to pack in more inmates. Jail populations fluctuate, and the maximum capacity depends on logistical factors, such as staffing.

The Spokane County Jail, built in 1986, was designed to hold about 460 inmates but overflowed within 10 years, forcing the county to “double-bunk” cells and make space at the old Army barracks at Geiger. The combined population of the two facilities reached an all-time high of nearly 1,200 inmates in 2008.

The Ada County Jail, built in 1977, has been overcrowded, too. Last year, the Idaho Press reported the jail had a total of 1,224 beds, as the “Curing Spokane” video states. But the Ada County sheriff said the recommended population was much smaller, at 949 inmates.

The video also notes that more than 100 jail beds in Spokane are reserved for federal agencies to support the claim that Boise has “up to 40% more local jail capacity than Spokane.”

The video does not mention that many inmates in Ada County’s custody – an estimated 20% last year, according to the Idaho Press – are held on behalf of the Idaho Department of Correction. Combined, federal and state agencies account for only 16% of Spokane County’s jail population, according to a recent presentation by the JFA Institute.

 

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