A wave of shootings and street crime will bring city and police officials to the Central District’s Powell Barnett Park Thursday night for a community meeting to “take back the neighborhood” and “stop the violence.”
Mayor Ed Murray and SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole are expected to attend the gathering planned for 6 PM in the south end of the park along Alder.
UPDATE: The mayor and chief will also be part of a media conference “to address gun violence” Thursday morning at 14th Ave’s First AME Church:
Mayor Murray, Chief O’Toole, and faith leaders from across Seattle come together this morning to speak to gun violence, its impacts and the community’s response.
UPDATE 12:00 PM: Thursday’s media conference inside the First AME Church at 14th and Pine began and ended with a prayer in a session that brought together black leaders from Seattle’s spiritual and business communities with city officials.
Mayor Murray and Chief O’Toole said police will only be part of the solution.
“Policing is part of the answer,” Murray said. “Better policing is part of the answer.”
“But that’s not going to be good enough.”
But there is apparently more to do on the policing side. The officials announced that SPD has begun the process to reassess the use of surveillance camera technology as an avenue to reduce street violence in Seattle.
Chief O’Toole said that community and business groups in the Central District and International District have asked for the technology.
“We are open and we are looking at it,” Murray said.
In 2010, controversy over privacy and SPD policies lead to the eventual removal of surveillance cameras from Cal Anderson Park while SPD’s cameras at other area facilities remained in place. Murray and O’Toole said that SPD is approaching things differently this time with the chief looking at “national models” for how other big cities handle the technology. There is no current plan or timetable for deployment, the officials said.
Reverend Harriet Walden said her Mothers for Police Accountability should be counted among the city’s community groups calling for the new cameras. “We want convictions,” she said.
Chief O’Toole also thanked representatives from the FBI and ATF who attended the Thursday morning conference and said more information will be release later today about a new partnership with the federal agencies that is improving SPD’s ability to analyze crime scenes. O’Toole said that ATF technicians were able to connect 10 recent shootings in Seattle to one handgun — and presumably one shooter — thanks to ballistics analysis. UPDATE: More on the analysis in an update at the bottom of this post.
O’Toole said efforts to quell gun violence should be focused “on a small group of people” who are “terrorizing our community.” She also said police work must be matched by social programs and “more enrichment programs for young people.”
In the near term, SPD officials did not provide any specifics for increased patrols or police resources deployed in the Central District.
Murray said the city must do more to address gun violence from a policy standpoint as well as grow youth job programs. Seattle’s summer youth employment program has reached 2,000 jobs in 2015, Murray said.
The mayor also pointed to a new initiative funded by a Bloomberg grant to assess city programs designed to address African American youth. “The dial hasn’t moved much,” Murray said. The new initiative has been put in place “to find out why we are not changing the results.”
“We’re dealing with internalized racism, and hatred,” Reverend Walden said. “We’ve been here before.”
Original report: Concerns about nightly reports of gunfire were sadly justified earlier this month when Torrence Phillips was gunned down on 24th Ave in a late afternoon shooting. The week before, a 31-year-old man was left bleeding in the parking lot of Swedish Cherry Hill after being shot in the chest in an incident at Powell Barnett. The murder and violence along with the recent stretch of regular gunfire reports and incidents like this scary, reportedly random shooting of a car full of kids on the 4th of July have pushed officials to act.
While nothing has been officially announced, past efforts to quell street violence in the area have included increased presence of SPD vehicle patrols and prominent deployment of the department’s mobile command unit vans. The crackdowns have also often included undercover gang unit operations and aggressive sweeps to net warrant suspects and clear out areas where people are known to gather to buy drugs or gamble.
Troy Meyers, the new chair of the East Precinct Advisory Council, told CHS that gang issues are his number one worry.
“Almost all of the shootings we see are gang related,” Meyers said. “I really just want to see an improvement in relationships between the police department and the community.” Meyers wants his group to be more involved in shaping SPD’s SeaStat crime analysis to help the department better deploy resources around the precinct.
20% of reported assaults involving firearms in 2015 have taken place between Madison and I-90 according to SPD data compiled by CHS:
The Seattle Times reports that gunfire incidents are up across the city:
According to police, there were 204 reports of gunfire throughout the city between Jan. 1 and July 6. During the same period in 2014, there were 168. For the same January-to-July time frame in 2013, the total was 150. The vast majority of the shootings this year have not resulted in death or injury. But 38 people have been wounded by gunfire in 2015, compared with 29 over the same period in 2014. Deputy Police Chief Carmen Best said that in response to the gunfire increase, officers have been increasing their visibility on the streets and are targeting people with an active arrest warrant.
Meanwhile, Tim Burgess introduced his City Council legislation Wednesday morning to tax gun and ammunition sales in Seattle “for gun-safety research and prevention programs.”
The wave of violence — and the attention on bringing it to an end — comes as the Central District is being lined up for massive new developments and City Hall is making plans to extend upzoning farther into the neighborhoods where development was restricted in the past by racist policies and practices.
Since 2013, detectives have been following the trail of a 9mm Luger pistol, used in ten shootings in the Seattle area.
After a shooting at a Central District park last month, detectives now have pictures of a man seen wielding the weapon, and are hoping someone can help identify him.
A witness captured two men on camera on June 25th at Powell Barnett Park as they fired shots at a passing vehicle.
With the help of the Puget Sound Regional Crime Gun Taskforce–a partnership between Seattle police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Washington State Patrol crime lab–detectives were able to tie the 9mm Luger to nine other incidents of gunfire in the Seattle area since 2013:
October 28, 2013 – 9:55 PM: Police found five shell casings connected with the gun in the street at 43rd Avenue S. and S. Othello, but no victims or damage.
December 22nd, 2013 – 10:04 PM: Officers found someone had fired nine rounds from the gun at 47th Ave S. and S. Juneau St. Again, no damage or victims.
June 12, 2015 – 9:59 PM: the gun was used to fire at least one shot at a white vehicle as it sped away from a gas station parking lot at 23rd Ave and E. Union St. No injuries or damage were reported to police.
June 24, 2014 – 6:13 PM: Witnesses reported someone opened fire from the passenger seat of a black Dodge sedan as it sped through the 9000 block of Rainier Ave. S. Police found evidence two guns were fired near the scene, and bullets fired during the incident struck a 60-year-old man in the leg and shattered the windshield of a passing vehicle.
June 25, 2015 – 9:10 PM: The gun was used in a shooting at Powell-Barnett Park. Officers were unable to find anyone with injuries at the scene, but a 31-year-old man later arrived at a Central District hospital with a gunshot wound. A motorist also contacted police and reported their car had been struck by gunfire as they drove past the park.
June 25, 2015 – 9:50 PM: Two men (pictured above) opened fire at Judkins Park. No one was injured in the shooting, but a motorist passing by the park ran a red light and struck two cars after hearing the gunfire.
June 26, 2015 – 12:40 AM: The gun was one of two fired at a gas station in the 9200 block of Rainier Ave S. Bullets fired from the Luger, and at least one other gun, struck nearby businesses and a nearby apartment building, where officers later recovered a bullet found on top of a resident’s bed. No one was injured in the incident.
July 4, 2015 – 11:27 PM: Officers met a woman in the I-90 bridge, after she called 911 and reported her car had been struck by gunfire near 25th Avenue S. and S. Massachusetts St. The woman and three children in the vehicle were not injured in the incident.
July 10, 2015 – 12:55 AM: An 18-year-old man was shot in the torso and leg near 46th Ave S. and S. Henderson St. Officers found the man, and medics transported him to Harborview Medical Center in critical condition.
Police believe the Luger handgun was used in all nine of these shootings, as well as an exchange of gunfire between two groups in the Renton area in July 2014, which left four people injured.
Detectives are looking for leads to help them track down the Luger and suspects in these incidents. Please call the Seattle Police Department’s violent crime tip line at (206) 233-5000 with any information about these cases.