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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 28, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 35
SPD cracking down on gun violence
Section One
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SPD cracking down on gun violence

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

There's been a 30.6 percent increase in shots fired in Seattle through August 17 from the same period last year, and a 16.3 percent increase in shooting injuries. More than 15 homicides have occurred in Seattle, with nine of those being people that have died in shootings this year through August 17, compared with 10 in the same period of 2014.

One of those murders took place on Capitol Hill, August 16, which claimed the life of a 23-year-old man in a parking lot across the street from Baltic Room and prompted Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) and about 30 other people from the neighborhood to hold a candlelight vigil August 22 condemning violent crime.

In other words - people are tired of it and as violence is on the rise, so is the number of people calling on SPD to do something about it.

On Tuesday, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole held a press conference to explain to the public what is going on.

O'Toole said gun violence is mostly committed by a small number of people. At the news conference O'Toole spoke about short-term strategies. One of those strategies she said, is information-sharing with agencies around the Puget Sound and national policing bureaus. In addition, she named such big-picture strategies as task forces, community outreach, and using data to target those frequently committing violence.

'We are focusing on locations where we've had a high incidence of shootings,' she said.

Additionally, O'Toole says the department is looking at macro-violence patterns over longer periods of time. She also said they are no longer looking at just 'week-to-week' but also now 'day-to-day.'

'Definitely our Number One focus is on shots fired and shooting incidents,' she said.

Police say most of those involved in recent shootings are gang members. That's not much of a surprise to most people, especially anyone living in Seattle's Central District or even much of Capitol Hill. However, O'Toole said that although many involved in shootings have criminal histories and are gang members, that doesn't diminish the department's response.

'It's a horrible tragedy when a young gang member loses his life,' O'Toole said. 'I mean every homicide, every death is a tragedy.'

What some might find surprising is that police say much of the gang violence stems from arguments over money or romantic relationships, rather than turf disputes. That means that bullets have been flying and bodies have been piling up due to love interests and money matters. While there really isn't any good reason for gun battles in neighborhood and city streets - this crap is outrageous.

According to police, the Federal Way drive-by-shooting that killed 20-year-old Muldhata Dawud in late July might have been ignited by a dispute over a woman. A day later, 20-year-old Zakariya Issa was fatally shot in Seattle's Dunlap neighborhood over a disagreement about money, according to a friend of Issa's. Issa and Dawud were close friends, but the fatal shootings were not believed to be related.

Suspects have been arrested in both shootings.

According to Assistant Police Chief Robert Merner, violence fueled by infighting between gang members can be more difficult to follow than gang conflicts; however, it's sometimes easier to get information from informants or from interviewing people involved if it is personal.

Unfortunately, however surprising this information might be to the public, Merner says the trend is not uncommon.

Merner said, 'Police and society need to get to the root of what causes a 21-year-old person to pick up a gun and shoot someone over an argument they had over a girl.'

According to police, the cornerstone of the increased effort to put shooters behind bars is a daily meeting at the department's Real Time Crime Center where officials discuss every violent crime that occurred over the past 24 hours. Important information on suspects' vehicles and known gang affiliations is widely distributed and specific officers are tasked with making arrests during the meetings. The meetings began last month, said O'Toole.

SPD has also begun to hold a weekly violent crime meeting with regional and federal law enforcement agencies. 'Shooters in handcuffs, that's our top priority,' O'Toole said.

The effort recently led to the recovery of a stolen vehicle connected to the August 13 killing of 24-year-old Antonio Jones at 26th and Columbia.

The car's owner told police she saw her vehicle in a YouTube video, which officers used to identify the suspect and arrest him.

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