SEATTLE — We’ve felt the uptick in gun violence, but now new numbers show the true severity of that surge. The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s latest report on shootings in the county released on Thursday says 197 people have been shot so far this year – up 61% over the past four-year average.
“What we’re seeing right now is a very disturbing trend. It doesn’t show any signs of slowing down – often one act of gun violence will provoke another will provoke another,” said Dan Satterberg, the King County Prosecuting Attorney.
The 197 shooting victims marks the highest number of victims for this time of the year (through the 2nd quarter), since the prosecuting attorney’s office started keeping close records of gun violence data in 2017.
However, help is stepping in. King County and Seattle leaders pledged on Thursday to tackle gun violence like a public health crisis.
“This scourge, this epidemic of gun violence affects us all,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“We know violence is a result of so many failed systems and because for so long, government has shirked its responsibility,” said Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “We know the impacts of systemic racism are real and they impact every part of daily life,” Durkan said.
Eighty percent of shooting victims in King County are people of color, according to the latest report.
Durkan said it’s time for governments to “invest in healthier and safer communities.” Seattle will be putting in $2 million to support the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective. The city also announced a $10.4 million investment into groups that work on BIPOC safety on Wednesday.
The Regional Peacekeepers Collective is a program that brings different organizations around King County together. Many of the groups work in different ways to curb gun violence and help young people. (The groups are Alive & Free, Choose180, Community Passageways, Freedom Project, Progress Pushers, Renegades for Life Youth Outreach, and UW Harborview Medical Center, and they work with Zero Youth Detention.)
“Now investments are being made which makes us feel like you guys see us. You are putting some focus and attention on this,” said Dominique Davis, who is the founder and CEO of Community Passageways.
“We ask our young people, why do you guys feel like you have to carry a gun? They kind of laugh. Why do you think? We all know the answer to that,” Davis said. “What we’re going to do is, we’re going to stop gun violence. My team, myself, we’re on the ground, we’re boots on the ground. We’re dealing with this trauma every single day,” he said.
Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said Seattle is experiencing cases of the highest number of shots fired in the city’s history. SPD announced a new data dashboard that now tracks where shots are fired and shooting cases are happening across the city.
“We’ve seen more than a 100% increase in drive-by shootings this year alone,” Diaz said. “We know shell casings being recovered in Seattle – that that same gun is being fired in Kent and Auburn. So having a regional approach is so imperative,” he said.
Diaz added that the Seattle police department is pushing to get illegal and stolen firearms off the streets, and the department is on track to recover more than 1,000 guns this year.
As for outreach, Satterberg said the community groups the county and city are investing in have the best chances of making a difference in young people and helping to curb violence.
“Show them some other opportunities for their life. They have a persuasive power that those of us in the system could never have,” Satterberg said. “Those are smart investments and if we can prevent some homicides, we can more than pay for this program,” he said.
UW Medicine and Harborview Medical Center said they will be tracking data and conducting research on how effective the new pilot program is working and help to determine if anything needs to change.
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