After three recent deadly shootings, an anti-violence activist suggested mothers snoop in their children’s bedrooms for guns, urged Seattle police to step up patrols in the Central District and called on the city to install surveillance cameras in violence-prone “hot spots.”
“We have to raise the level of what we’re willing to do,” the Rev. Harriett Walden, a founder of Mothers for Police Accountability, a social-justice and advocacy organization, said Wednesday. “We owe it to our children to stop the violence.”
But as others pointed out during a news conference at Powell Barnett Park, answers to the spate of violence in and around the Central District that has seen five shootings since April19, are difficult to pinpoint.
Walden acknowledged this, noting that she and others are willing to put in “sweat equity” to quell “black-on-black violence.” But, she said, “We cannot do this by ourselves.”
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Charlie James, a social activist who also spoke at the news conference, said one of the problems is the community has created three generations of men who are “unemployed and unemployable,” a situation that breeds violence. Without offering specifics, James said he would call on local business to train and hire young people.
There have been three fatal shootings in the Central District and Leschi neighborhoods since April 19; the victims have all been black. The city had 29 homicides in 2013.
In addition, there have been several nonfatal shootings over the same period, most recently Tuesday when a man in his 20s was shot in the leg by a gunman who opened fire on a passing car near the Mount Baker neighborhood.
Police have said they don’t know if the shootings are related, and they are not ruling out gang activity.
A Seattle police captain who also spoke at Wednesday’s news conference said there have been witnesses to several of the shootings, but no one has come forward with information.
Walden said she and others are asking the City Council to look into installing surveillance cameras as a way to combat violence in the Central District.
She said the cameras should be installed with a “sunset clause,” so that their operation would be for a limited time.
The effort echoes a similar call from the head of the local Urban League four years ago during another rash of shootings that saw several teenagers injured in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood. It’s unclear whether cameras were ever installed.
But surveillance cameras have been a been a controversial issue in Seattle. Last year, the city agreed to shutter 30 surveillance cameras purchased with federal dollars and installed along the waterfront after citizens and civil-rights activists protested what they said was an invasion of privacy.
When asked for a comment on Walden’s request, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who chairs the council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, sent the following statement:
“I have heard from community members who believe it would make a lot of sense to include cameras to assist in the investigation of crimes and to strategically locate these systems in certain areas of the city.”
However, he said his committee is examining an “automated gunfire-locating system,” which would pinpoint the source of gunshots.
Several large cities have turned to the gunshot-locating technology, which vendors say can pinpoint gunfire to a specific address, tell police how many shots were fired, whether they were fired from a large- or small-caliber weapon and, in some cases, even what direction the shooter is heading.
It does this by measuring tiny differences in the time it takes for the sound of the shot to reach a series of microphones. Then software is used to triangulate the point of origin.,
However, critics have said police generally know the location where shots are fired and that the technology may not lead to additional arrests.
Walden also said Wednesday that the responsibility for stopping violence needs to start at home. She urged mothers to check their children’s rooms for guns and get rid of any weapons found.
“We got to make adults responsible for their little people,” Walden said.
Capt. Pierre Davis, of the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, said the department needs to have “all hands on deck” to get to the root of the problems and issues that fuel the gunfire.
He said police will deploy more foot and bike police at hot spots: 23rd Avenue and East Union Street; and 28th Avenue South and South Charles Street.
He also said it was too early to say whether the shootings had any ties to alleged gang affiliations.
The one thing they seemed to have in common, he said, was that several occurred after someone “who lost a fistfight came back with a pistol.”
Christine Clarridge can be reached at 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this story, which includes information from Times archives.