LEAD Diversion Program Is Expanding to the City of Burien, Washington

Real Change

By Ashley Archibald

Jimmy Matta became mayor of a changing Burien. The bedroom community in which he took up domicile was largely untouched by the explosive growth that struck Seattle in recent years, bringing with it intense wealth as well as increasing inequality and gentrification.

The city no longer enjoys the relative quiet of obscurity.

“We’re turning from a small, bedroom community to an urban city,” Matta said.

The designation comes with a new set of challenges, among them more visible street poverty, drug issues and property destruction.

City leaders hope that they have found a program that will help.

As the new year kicks off, so does the design for Burien’s version of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), a program that brings police, prosecutors and case managers together to move nonviolent, low-level offenders away from the criminal justice system and toward stability.

LEAD tailors itself to individual communities, taking into account their needs and individual cultures, said Tim Candela, LEAD project manager in the Seattle Police Department’s West Precinct.

Candela, one of the original case managers when the program debuted in Belltown in 2011, has watched it expand its operations to the East Precinct and plan to take on the North Precinct this summer. He was purposefully noncommittal about how LEAD would look when the Burien community finishes its design process.

“It depends on resources available. Access to health care may look a little different as well,” Candela said. “There might be a lot of similarities.”

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