Seattle Police commanders say they’re taking a laser focused approach to identifying and arresting suspects of violent crime in the wake of an uptick of shootings in the city, several of which have occurred in the East Precinct.
Chief Kathleen O’Toole highlighted the department’s recent strategies to tackle gang violence with “predictive analysis” at a briefing Tuesday. The cornerstone of the increased effort 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.
In the meetings which began last month, O’Toole said information on suspects vehicles and known gang affiliations is widely distributed and specific officers are tasked with making arrests. SPD also began holding 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 13th 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. Still, few arrests have been made in the city’s most recent shootings.
The number of shots fired in Seattle has increased significantly, with 252 in 2015 compared to 193 last year. 64 people have been struck by gunfire this year — 9 more than this time last year — but there has been one less fatal shooting compared to 2014.
According to O’Toole, most of those victims are heavily involved in criminal activity and already known to police.
“Yesterdays victim is tomorrow’s shooter and vice versa,” she said.
On Sunday, a 24-year-old man was left in critical condition after he was shot at Boren and Main, just a few blocks from where Chinatown/ID community organizer Donne Chin was gunned down weeks earlier. The weekend before, a gun-related Capitol Hill homicide claimed the life of Ramon Mitchell, 23, who died after being shot several times outside the Baltic Room at Pine and Melrose.
In the wake of the shooting, Baltic Room owner Jason Brotman told CHS he and other Capitol Hill club owners are exploring a new ID scanning software that would track who has been kicked out of a club earlier in the night. He also rejected claims that hip hop shows are somehow connected to the city’s uptick in violence.
“No matter what music were playing… that’s not going to impact the availability of guns,” he said. “We got the whole gamut, and I don’t want to put this on one type of music or one genre of music.”
Mitchell was gunned down in a parking lot operated by Republic Parking Northwest where Baltic Room crowds sometimes congregate after shows. Neither the Baltic Room nor Republic have outside security cameras. In an effort to “ease tensions” on the block, a representative from Republic told CHS the 24-hour lot will start to close from 2:30 AM to 5 AM everyday.
“Somebody was shot across the street, it was really out of our control,” said the representative. “We haven’t done anything to create the situation.”
The Republic employee asked to remain anonymous.
O’Toole also highlighted the importance of regional and federal partnerships in her Tueday media briefing. Eight federal agents with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have been assigned to work directly with SPD on ballistics and intelligence analysis. The ATF recently came under scrutiny for quietly installing surveillance cameras at two Central District intersections.
A small group gathered Saturday night to take part in the anti-crime vigil organized by Social Outreach Seattle and Daniel Goodman, a Capitol Hill resident who recently wrote an open letter to Mayor Ed Murray and other city officials after being beaten and robbed while walking home from a gay bar.
Concerns about gunfire have grown this week especially in the Central District where near-nightly reports of gunshots continue to be reported. Tuesday around 11:15 PM after the afternoon press conference, SPD was out near 24th and Columbia following reports from multiple callers about gunfire in the area. Callers reported hearing 9 or more shots. Police found no shell casings — and, fortunately, no victims.
SPD’s presentation from Tuesday’s conference is below.