illustrations by Jim Blanchard, Scott Smith, Saggie Srown, Sim Soodring, Smell of Steve, Inc., Kathryn Rathke, Stefano Gaudiano, Karen Caldicott, & Eric Reynolds. POLICE reports involving a suicide have a drawing that displays the exact location and posture of the body at the moment of death. Homicides (the king of crimes) get numerous color photos covering every inch, spot, and speck related to the murder. But standard crimes (theft, vice, robbery, sex offenses, stalking) get only words--weak words, furthermore, composed by cops with very limited literary imaginations. True, a few good cops like Officer C. T. Davidson of the East Precinct and Officer Sylvester of the South Precinct produce reports that offer the reader a reasonable concept of the criminal and his or her crime. But for the most part, the SPD offers only rapidly written reports that reveal almost nothing.

Still, even if a report is four pages long and packed with facts and description, it will inevitably disappoint us, because what we want isn't a swamp of words struggling to capture the elusive essence of the suspect, but an image.

Why do we have this need to actually see the criminal? Why aren't we satisfied with the written details of their evil deeds? I can only offer the reasons behind my own compulsive curiosity. As writer of Police Beat, I read at least 300 crime reports a week. These reports document crimes committed all over the city. You can imagine how strange and even unsettling my Seattle has become. I can't put a face on any of these damn criminals, so, like ghosts whose presence is perpetuated by an unresolved earthly matter, they exert an evil influence over the scenes of their past crimes. I'll walk into the lobby of a building and suddenly realize that this is the place where, just a few days before, a woman stabbed her indifferent lover; I'll sit down at a table and see through the restaurant window the corner where a desperate junkie bought some bad heroin. If I could put a face on these criminals, I believe I'd regain some control of the intimate spaces haunted by their vague and sinister forms.

As I will never see the real images of the countless criminals I read about every week, I have settled for the next best thing: to have nine artists interpret the police details of five offenders who currently obsess my dreams. Hopefully, these drawings will come close (ever so close) to the real images of the men and women who have broken the law in our city.


Capitol Hill/Sun Oct 15, 2000/6:59 am

This suspect was found in a restroom desperately clutching a "hunting style" rifle. The investigating officer speculated that the crime the suspect was about to commit was nothing less than the assassination of the president of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, who just happened to be only three miles away from the restroom. The police described the would-be assassin as a 49-year-old white male, just over five feet tall, weighing 180 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes. Witnesses who saw him walk into the restroom with his rifle say he wore a United Nations T-shirt, a tie-dyed hat, bell-bottom jeans, and a belt with a large buckle.


Sand Point/Fri Oct 13, 2000/4:45 pm

Because the cops redacted (blacked out) much of this report, I do not know the exact nature of this woman's crime. All I can determine is that someone (a patient, a child?) was attacked by a crazy nurse at a children's hospital. What the report does offer, however, is a detailed description of the nurse/offender: white, 53 years old, 5' 5" tall, 135 pounds, with blond hair, blue eyes, and a light skin tone. At the moment of committing her crime, she wore black pants, a cream sweater, a purple coat, and pink glasses; in one hand she held a mysterious hand-written note, and in the other, a multi-colored umbrella--the weapon of the crime.


Tukwila/Thurs Dec 28, 2000/1 pm

The suspect is black, 27 years old, 5' 7" in height, 155 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes, a medium skin tone, and a medium build. Under the police category "clothing, scars, marks, tattoos, peculiarities" are listed multiple tattoos: "a rose on arm, the Space Needle on chest." This still-at-large suspect is wanted by the Seattle Police Department for harassing his ex-girlfriend, who is so fearful of him (he once pointed a gun at her and threatened to pull the trigger) that she recently flew back to Mississippi "for good." The report also mentions that the suspect owns a cell phone.


Central District/Tue Nov 14 2000/ 9:25 pm

This suspect, who instigated a violent confrontation with another tenant in his building, is described as a black male, 56 years old, 6 feet tall, with brown eyes and a thin build. At the moment of his crime, he wore a black jacket with fur around the collar, tight black pants, a bluish, silk-like shirt, a striped tie, and an Afro hairstyle. Along with a 5-inch fixed blade knife, the suspect threatened the victim with a short metal pipe.


Green Lake/Fri Dec 8, 2000/2:20 am

This woman, the night bartender at a sleazy hotel in Green Lake, is also a gun dealer. If you need a tool, just say the word, and she'll hand it to you under the bar. The gun-dealing bartender is described as thin (115 pounds), with long brown hair and big brown eyes. At the moment of her crime, she was wearing a leather jacket, a black shirt, blue jeans, high heels, and a necklace with a silver cross on it.