Neighborhoods stretching from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill have seen a sharp spike in gunfire in recent weeks.
Neighborhoods from Rainier Valley to Capitol Hill have seen a sharp spike in gunfire in recent weeks.
Seattle police responded to 22 reports of “shots fired” in the East and South precincts between June 9 and July 6. One shooting this month in the Central Area resulted in the death of a man, police said.
The spike in shootings comes in a year that has seen an increase in gunshot reports citywide. At the same time, homicides by gunfire are down this year compared with the same period in 2014, according to Seattle police statistics.
“There’s an increase of shots fired, but fortunately there’s a decrease in homicides,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said in an interview Wednesday. “Last year at this point, we had 10 people killed by gunfire. This year we have five.”
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According to police, there were 204 reports of gunfire throughout the city between Jan. 1 and July 6. During the same period in 2014, there were 168.
For the same January-to-July time frame in 2013, the total was 150.
The vast majority of the shootings this year have not resulted in death or injury. But 38 people have been wounded by gunfire in 2015, compared with 29 over the same period in 2014.
During a news conference Thursday morning, O’Toole said that police have recently entered into a partnership with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to address gun violence. Through the partnership, police have linked one gun used in 10 shootings dating back to October 2013.
No one has been injured in the gunfire.
Deputy Police Chief Carmen Best, during an interview Wednesday, said that in response to the gunfire increase, officers have been increasing their visibility on the streets and are targeting people with an active arrest warrant.
The bulk of the shots-fired calls have occurred in the Rainier Beach, Central Area/Squire Park and Brighton/Dunlop neighborhoods.
“We see an increase and we worry that increase will continue,” Best said. “We want to get in front of it [the violence].”
Best said the spike in violence isn’t “catastrophic” nor is it reflective of “a gang war.” She added: “We don’t want people to panic.”
On the afternoon of July 2, police were called to the 900 block of 24th Avenue for a report of gunfire. When officers arrived, they found Torrence Phillips, 30, dead. No arrests have been made.
Members of Seattle’s black clergy held a vigil to honor Phillips. Seattle Police Capt. John Hayes, who attended the vigil, said he’s struck that there’s no real pattern to the gunfire.
“It’s about who is mad at who and then there are shots fired out of intimidation,” he said. “We’ve taken more guns off the streets than ever before, but we need community help.”
The shootings have continued beyond the July 6 cutoff date police have used to track the number of gunfire reports.
On Tuesday night, an 18-year-old man was shot in the stomach in the Brighton neighborhood, south of Columbia City. The man, who was hospitalized in stable condition, was apparently shot after exchanging cash with some men in a driveway, according to police.
On Monday, police were called to a Beacon Hill alley for a gunfight between passengers in a black sedan and a brown Maserati. No one was hurt and police are looking for suspects.
O’Toole and Mayor Ed Murray addressed the shootings during Thursday’s news conference at the First AME Church. A peace walk is expected to kick off at 6 p.m. Thursday at Powell Barnett Park in the Central Area.
“What we’re doing is drilling down into all firearm violence,” Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner said Wednesday. “We have a comprehensive approach the chief will be discussing tomorrow.”
The Rev. Harriett Walden decried the recent spate of shootings, saying: “Seattle used to be a livable city.”
A news release Walden sent from her group, Mothers For Police Accountability, said the group is calling “for cameras in hot spots with sunset times and sends out a call for volunteers to come forward with information and engage in activities to address the gun violence head-on.”
Pat Murakami, a Mount Baker resident who has been working on neighborhood crime prevention for the past 10 years, said: “Crime always goes up in the summer months.” But, she added, things are far worse than she’s seen in a long time.
“Even taking the heat and summer into account, it is worse. Common sense would tell you there is a gang war going on,” Murakami said. “I don’t even have words to describe how sad I feel.”
Murakami said she has spent years going to candlelight vigils and marches, but neither has reduced crime. She believes that people just aren’t calling 911 to report crime because they don’t trust the police or they don’t believe officers will help in a timely manner.
“We need to go door to door and figure out how much crime is underreported in South Seattle,” Murakami said.