Seattle police released data on Friday showing reports of gunfire and shootings — both fatal and non-fatal — were up slightly last year compared to 2018, with increases most pronounced in the department’s South Precinct and along Aurora Avenue North in the North Precinct.
“We continue to analyze the data and we work really hard to put officers in the places where we have the best chance of deterring future violence,” said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, noting that most of the department’s investigations into gun violence start with a 911 call or information provided by community members.
Shootings across the city increased 6% in 2019 compared to the previous year, with 235 reports of shots fired, 79 injury shootings and 18 fatal shootings, for a total of 332 shooting incidents, the data show. In 2018, the total was 313 shooting incidents, with 67 injury shootings, 13 fatalities and 233 shootings that resulted in property damage or where officers were able to collect evidence of a shooting such as shell casings.
Despite the year-over-year uptick, Assistant Police Chief of Investigations Deanna Nollette said 2019’s total numbers are still below the levels of gun violence seen in the city in 2015 and 2017, when there were 388 and 360 shooting incidents, respectively. In 2015, 16 people were killed and 72 others were injured in shootings; two years later, 18 people were fatally shot and 69 were wounded by gunfire, according to the department’s data.
The South Precinct saw the largest increase in shootings, with a total of 139 in 2019 compared to 116 in 2018. The 2019 numbers include four shooting deaths and 24 injury shootings while in 2018, four people were killed and another 18 were wounded. In the North Precinct, there were 59 shooting incidents — with seven deaths and 11 injury shootings — in 2019, compared to 50 reports of shots fired in 2018, with two deaths and 11 injury shootings, according to department data.
The top five neighborhoods that saw an increase were Brighton-Dunlap, New Holly and Rainier Beach, with 10 more shooting incidents each in 2019 than in 2018, followed by North Beacon Hill and Pioneer Square, each with six more shooting incidents last year compared to the previous year.
The department’s East, West and Southwest precincts all saw modest decreases in shots-fired incidents in 2019 compared to 2018: 47 versus 55 in East; 41 versus 48 in West; and 43 versus 44 in Southwest. The top five neighborhoods that saw a decrease in the number of shootings were Madrona-Leschi (-10), Rainier View (-8), High Point and Queen Anne (-6 each) and Mid Beacon Hill (-5).
Andre Taylor, the executive director of Not This Time!, a community organization focused on reducing police shootings and increasing trust between police and communities of color, attended Friday’s news briefing at Seattle Police Headquarters along with other members of the agency. He lamented the number of Black and brown boys and men who have been killed or wounded as a result of gun and gang violence and said there are a number of programs — including those offered by Community Passageways and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle — available for those who need help. He said his organization is working on developing an educational curriculum to connect with young people on the streets.
“There are all kinds of things for individuals who are struggling,” Taylor said. “In 2020, we refuse to allow the same violence to hamper our community.”
For police, gun violence is a serious issue, and when there’s a report of a shooting, patrol officers and members of the department’s gang unit respond quickly “and collect evidence regardless of whether anyone is injured,” Nollette said. She said detectives have put together some “significant cases” and in late 2017, police dismantled a violent South Seattle street gang. But she said there are always others moving in to fill the void.
Gangs, drugs and prostitution activity along Aurora Avenue North are the nexus for many of the city’s shootings, Nollette said.
“There’s always ongoing conflicts that ebb and wane,” she said. “Now we’re dealing with some new players.”
Keeping the city’s residents safe and taking guns off the streets are top priorities for the department, said Nollette, who asked that anyone with information about a shooting call the Violent Crimes Tip Line, 206-233-5000.