Rather than traditional gang battles, police are dealing with retaliatory shootings set off by personal disputes. They plan to counteract the violence by increasing patrols and targeting the most dangerous offenders.
Seattle has seen an uptick in shootings through mid-May, driven in part by personal disputes between gang members that trigger a cycle of violence, a police official told the City Council’s public-safety committee Wednesday.
There have been 35 people shot during that period with three fatalities, compared to 27 with five fatalities at this point last year, said Lt. Marc Garth Green, who oversees the gang unit.
Of the 35 shot this year, there appears to be six unintended victims, although that number is not definite, according to police officials.
The number of reports of shots fired has also grown, from 132 to 155 this year, mostly in the south and southwest parts of the city.
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While Seattle ranks far behind other major cities in gun violence, the spike has generated concern, including a new fatal shooting of a 23-year-old man during a large gathering at Alki Beach in West Seattle on Tuesday night.
Rather than traditional gang battles, police are seeing retaliatory shootings set off by personal grudges, Garth Green said.
“What we have is, we see we have an event that happens, transpires and then we have the ripple effect, that butterfly effect of what happens after that,” he said in response to a question from Councilmember Tim Burgess on what is driving the increase.
More injuries are occurring because of the use of high-capacity magazines that fire more rounds, Garth Green said, calling them “kind of the rage.”
Fatalities are lower because of trauma treatment at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, he said.
Garth Green said police are working with other local and federal law-enforcement agencies and the state corrections department to apprehend the most dangerous offenders and address what he described as a regional problem crossing boundaries.
Investigations, he said, were hampered by a code of silence.
When an incident occurs, he told the council, police engage in community outreach and try to calm tensions.
Councilmember M. Lorena González, chair of the committee, and Councilmember Lisa Herbold urged the use of the department’s mobile police precincts to allay community concerns, something the police pledged to do along with more bike and emphasis patrols at Alki Beach including the Memorial Day weekend.
Alison Pankop, a mother of two girls who lives three blocks from where the Alki shooting occurred, attended the council briefing, saying she wanted to know what was going to happen in response.
“This happens each summer and I wanted to know that something is being done to prevent it from happening,” she said. “I am happy that they brought up the mobile precincts, that they plan to have increased bike patrols. I wish it would have started already.”
As police deal with enforcement, Seattle is increasing its investments in summer programs for young people, Mayor Ed Murray said Wednesday.
The city will dole out $145,000 in grants of $5,000 to $15,000 to help community organizations carry out projects for people of color up to age 24, Murray said during a news conference outside the Teen Life Center at Garfield High School.
That’s about double what Seattle spent on such grants last summer, he said. The deadline for organizations to apply for the grants is June 20.
The goal is to help young people continue to learn and grow when they’re not in school, and to keep them safe, Murray said.
“We know that summer is a particularly precarious time for youth,” he said.
Last summer, the Somali Family Safety Task force used a grant to run an empowerment program for young men of East African descent, said Farhiya Mohamed, the organization’s executive director.
Fourteen young men attended Friday evening meetings for 12 weeks and were mentored by community members, Mohamed said. One participant, who had dropped out of high school, has since obtained his GED and enrolled in college, she said.
The city’s summer youth-employment program will provide about 3,500 jobs to young people this year, Murray said.
Some of them will be employed by the Seattle Police Department, which also is growing its Seattle Police Activities League, Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner said.
Last year, the league offered flag football. This year, it will also offer soccer, baseball and chess, Merner said.
Seattle Parks and Recreation will also employ young people and will operate a number of summer programs, including a free soccer camp, community-center activities, free lunches, day camps and job readiness programs, deputy director Christopher Williams said.
Gun violence increases in and around Seattle in the summer, Murray said when asked about the Alki Beach shooting.
“The police department is doubling down efforts in South and Southwest Seattle,” he said.
Merner described the department’s investigation of the Alki Beach shooting as active and ongoing. Witnesses are cooperating with police, he said.