Posted on May 31, 2012

Guns More than Gangs Are Fueling Violence in Seattle, Police Say

Lynn Thompson and Sara Jean Green, Seattle Times, May 29, 2012

Seattle police officials Tuesday said the outbreak of violence through Memorial Day weekend and since the beginning of the year has more to do with guns than with gangs.

Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz and Assistant Chief for Operations Paul McDonagh said that, while gang activity has played a role in the jump in homicides this year — 15 to date compared with 21 in all of 2011 — the common denominator is the use of firearms.

“A person who has a gun is more likely to use a gun,” Metz said after the weekly council briefing.

The pair addressed the City Council on Tuesday to talk about the recent spate of shootings and the Police Department’s stepped-up response.


“We don’t know” what has prompted the violence, said Jim Pugel, assistant police chief of investigations. “If we knew, we’d be able to put a stop to it, and that’s the frustrating part.”


An alleged Seattle gang member, meanwhile, was arrested on suspicion of the Saturday-night shooting near the Space Needle that left one bystander wounded. And one of four drive-by shootings that night was at the former home of a gang member, Metz told City Council members.


A few years ago, the city experienced a rash of shootings involving children younger than 18, and the gang violence centered on rivals battling it out in the Central Area and Rainier Valley, Pugel said. Now though, he said, “most of these aren’t school-aged kids” involved in the violence, but adults in the 19-to-30 age range.

He said there seems to be “no inhibition by people to resolve whatever dispute they have by resorting to firearms.”


Councilmember Nick Licata said that though Seattle has one of the lowest homicide rates among the nation’s big cities, the increase this year is “not good.” {snip}

He told those at the meeting that the lack of community trust and unwillingness to assist police is “one of the biggest barriers to effective policing.”


After the council briefing, James Bible, local leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said reducing violence would have to come from the community. He said police react to immediate incidents, but that offering alternative choices to youth needs to come from churches, community centers and respected elders.

He called on the city to not reduce funding for youth-violence-prevention initiatives including after-school programs and parks and recreation activities.

“Are we funding the things that give kids opportunity and hope?” he asked.