Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a new innovative pilot program that was developed with the community to address low-level drug and prostitution crimes in the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle and the Skyway area of unincorporated King County. LEAD will divert low-level drug and prostitution offenders into community-based treatment and support services – including housing, healthcare, job training, treatment and mental health support -- instead of processing them through traditional criminal justice system avenues.
A unique coalition of law enforcement agencies, public officials, and community groups collaborated to create this pilot program. These groups make up LEAD’s Policy Coordinating Group, which governs the program.
LEAD’s goal is to improve public safety and public order, and to reduce the criminal behavior of people who participate in the program. The program will be thoroughly evaluated to determine whether it has been successful or not.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are frequently asked questions about LEAD. If you have further questions about the program, please contact us.
What is LEAD?
LEAD is a pre-booking diversion program that allows officers to redirect low-level offenders engaged in drugs or prostitution activity to community-based services instead of jail and prosecution. LEAD participants begin working immediately with case managers to access services. LEAD’s goals are to reduce the harm a drug offender causes him or herself, as well as the harm that the individual is causing the surrounding community. This public safety program has the potential to reduce recidivism rates for low-level offenders and preserve expensive criminal justice system resources for more serious or violent offenders.
How does LEAD differ from other drug programs?
First, LEAD is the result of a commitment from law enforcement agencies, public officials, and community organizations to work together in implementing a new approach to addressing drug and prostitution activity. Second, the diversion in LEAD is made at the pre-booking stage, in the hopes of bypassing the costs and time entailed in booking, charging, and requiring court appearances of an individual. Finally, LEAD provides participants with immediate case management services, and access to additional resources not available through existing public programs.
Who is eligible for diversion into LEAD?
Individuals who are arrested for eligible offenses within specified boundaries for Belltown or Skyway may be diverted into LEAD. Eligible offenses include low-level drug offenses, and engaging in prostitution. Individuals who have certain violent offenses in their criminal history are ineligible for diversion.
Who designed LEAD?
LEAD is the result of an unusual collaboration among diverse stakeholders. Collaborators include the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the Seattle Police Department, the King County Sheriff’s Office, the King County Executive, the Mayor’s Office, The Washington State Department of Corrections, The Defender Association, the ACLU of Washington, and community members. The collaboration of these stakeholders was motivated by a shared dissatisfaction with the outcomes and costs of traditional drug law enforcement.
Who runs LEAD?
As noted, LEAD is the result of a collaboration among a number of stakeholders. All stakeholders are represented on LEAD’s Policy Coordinating Group, and the group makes decisions by consensus via a memorandum of understanding. LEAD is entirely voluntary, and any stakeholder may choose to withdraw from LEAD at any time.
Who will provide services to LEAD participants?
LEAD stakeholders have contracted with Evergreen Treatment Services (ETS) to provide services to LEAD participants. ETS has provided addiction treatment services in Washington for over 30 years, and has been actively involved in federally-funded research projects. ETS’ REACH Program has been a key provider in the delivery of street outreach services to chronically homeless and chemically addicted adults in Seattle for 15 years. ETS will follow harm reduction principles and will attempt to provide immediate access to services.
How will we know if LEAD works?
All LEAD stakeholders are committed to evaluating the program rigorously. The evaluation will consider, among other factors, whether LEAD has resulted in reductions in drug use and recidivism, whether LEAD is more cost-effective than traditional criminal justice processing, and whether LEAD has had a positive impact on a community’s quality of life.
How much will LEAD cost the City of Seattle and King County?
Nothing. LEAD stakeholders obtained funding from private foundations to implement the program. Its funders include the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Vital Projects Fund, RiverStyx Foundation, Massena Foundation, and the Social Justice Fund Northwest.
Do community members support LEAD?
Community members strongly support LEAD. LEAD will be piloted first in Belltown, and then in Skyway (in partnership with the King County Sheriff’s Office). Members of both communities have participated in the program’s design, and will continue to provide feedback about the program. For example, the LEAD Community Advisory Board in Belltown includes representatives from the Belltown Community Council, Belltown Business Association, Downtown Seattle Association/Metropolitan Improvement District, Recovery Café, YWCA, Plymouth Housing Group, and Millionair Club Charity. The LEAD Community Advisory Board in Skyway includes representatives from Skyway United Methodist Church, Westhill Community Council, and Skyway Solutions.
For how long will LEAD be implemented?
LEAD formally began on October 1, 2011. The program is anticipated to run for two years before an evaluation is begun, and to continue with foundation funding for an additional two years while the evaluation is conducted and analyzed. If LEAD is found to be effective, an ongoing source of funding will be sought.
Have programs like LEAD been implemented elsewhere?
LEAD was inspired by “arrest-referral” programs in the United Kingdom. Those programs have recently been implemented in virtually every police department in the United Kingdom because pilot projects proved to be so effective.
Policy Coordinating Group
LEAD is governed by a Policy Coordinating Group. The group makes decisions by consensus via a memorandum of understanding. LEAD is entirely voluntary, and any stakeholder may choose to withdraw from LEAD at any time. The members include:
- Seattle Office of the Mayor
- King County Executive Office
- Seattle City Council
- King County Council
- Seattle City Attorney’s Office
- King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
- Seattle Police Department
- King County Sheriff’s Office
- Washington Department of Corrections
- Belltown LEAD Community Advisory Board
- Skyway LEAD Community Advisory Board
- The Defender Association, Racial Disparity Project
- ACLU of Washington, Drug Policy Project
LEAD is currently operating as a pilot program and is being funded by private foundations. It is hoped that LEAD will eventually find permanent funding from public sources. The cost-effectiveness of the program will be studied in detail as part of the evaluation for LEAD.
Current funders include: