On the same day a new report showed shootings in King County remain on a sharp, upward climb — with Black people and other people of color disproportionately victimized — Seattle’s mayor and other officials announced the city will invest $2 million in community-based programs aimed at stopping gun violence.
Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine joined police and public health officials outside Harborview Medical Center Thursday to announce the funding for a new county pilot project — the Regional Peacekeepers Collective — that seeks to reduce shootings.
The funding will enable the project to hire and train specialists and case managers, and establish services to help the people most at risk break a cycle of violence.
“We know that violence is a result of so many failed systems, and because government for so long has shirked its responsibility, we are called at this time to make investments into healthier, safer communities,” Durkan said.
Officials didn’t immediately break down where the money would come from. King County has previously announced another $1.47 million funding effort for gun violence prevention strategies, including money for the regional peacekeepers group.
With the county’s gun violence already spiking last year, the latest report on shooting statistics, released earlier Thursday by King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg’s office, showed the problem only getting worse through the first half of 2021.
In all, the 580 shootings (including all reports of shots fired, not just those where a person was hit) between January and June in King County is about 33% higher than the average number of shootings for the same six-month span from 2017 through 2020, the data shows. The total number of people shot so far this year — 196 — represents a 61% increase compared with the average semi-annual figures in previous years, the statistics show.
The 42 people who have died by gunfire this year in King County is four more than during the same period last year, and that number also marks a 48% increase in shooting deaths compared with the average number of fatalities during the first half of the previous four years.
Black people made up nearly half of all victims of shootings, both fatal and non-fatal, despite making up only 7% of the county’s population. With 96 victims, African Americans were shot more than any other racial or ethnic group, the statistics show. Most shooting victims were male (85%) and between 18 to 24 years old (36%), the report showed.
Hispanic people and Native Americans also were shot at disproportionately higher rates. Overall, people of color have made up 80% of all shooting victims so far this year.
“The numbers don’t lie; this is a gun violence crisis,” interim Seattle police Chief Adrian Diaz said at the Harborview event. He described the latest shooting trend as “the highest incidences of gun violence in our history.”
Seattle, like many major cities, has experienced rising gun violence in recent months, Durkan said. Homicide is up 42% across the nation. Last year, Seattle recorded its highest number of homicides in 26 years.
The peacekeepers collective, a county pilot project that Constantine announced in June, focuses on community engagement of young people believed most likely to become victims or perpetrators of gun violence. Young people are referred to the program by Harborview Medical Center, King County prosecutors, social workers and others. About 200 people and their families are expected to be supported over the next two years.
Constantine called the project a “data-driven approach” to engage and provide social services to those most at risk to gun violence through street outreach and hospital interventions.
Dominique Davis, a Rainier Beach community activist and CEO of Community Passageways — one of the partner groups in the collective — said the project will, among other efforts, use the city funding to hire and train people impacted by gun violence.
In turn, they will “go back into the community and use their influence to start pulling young people and families together and out of this perpetuated violence that keeps happening,” Davis said.
Derrick Wheeler-Smith, director or Zero Youth Detention, said the project seeks to use new strategies with a community-based focus on “trauma-informed care, and interrupting cycles of violence” that can produce results without contributing to mass incarceration.
Dr. Fred Rivara, director of Harborview’s Firearm Injury & Policy Research Program, said the program will evaluate the effectiveness of the peacekeepers collective’s interventions on the rate of gun violence within the community.
Thursday’s report on the latest shooting statistics is based on data from over 20 law enforcement agencies, with most coming from eight agencies that collectively provide services for 79% of the county’s population: Seattle, Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Tukwila and the King County Sheriff’s Office.
In all, 64% of the shooting incidents and 59% of the shooting victims were reported by agencies outside of Seattle, the report said.