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King County cops teaming up to fight rise in gun violence

Emergency crews respond to a shooting incident in Seattle. The city experienced five shootings in 24 hours on May 3-4, 2017. (KIRO 7)

In his 4 ½ years as King County sheriff, John Urquhart cannot recall a time or an issue that brought together nearly every high-ranking law enforcement official in the Puget Sound region. Until Wednesday, when the region’s recent rise in gun violence put local and federal law enforcement in one room.

RELATED: Seattle police increase patrols after couple is shot

Most recently, there were six shootings in two days in the Seattle region. The issue is so severe that Urquhart was blunt while speaking with KIRO Radio’s Ron and Don.

“Young people with guns, that’s exactly what it is … my message to parents is if you think your kids are out there with guns – and I think most parents know – you better put a stop to it, even if you have to call us,” Urquhart said. “Because if you don’t, they are going to get killed. Either we are going to kill them – which is what happened in Seattle two weeks ago – or other people out there, other kids with guns are going to kill them. That’s how serious this is. We don’t want to kill them, we don’t want your kid to get killed. Do something about it.”

The meeting on Wednesday brought together the Washington State Patrol, Seattle Police Department, ATF, DEA, FBI, the DOC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office — each discussing how they have noticed the rise in gun violence.

“There has been an uptick in some gang activity,” Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole told KIRO 7. “…We had the death of an innocent 16-year-old girl here, just around the corner. We had an elderly couple in the middle of the night that were subject to gunfire. It has to stop. The community is not going to tolerate it, and the police department is not going to tolerate it.”

Urquhart wouldn’t say exactly what tactics are going to be used moving forward, but he did provide some insight.

“They are real simple: Boots on the ground,” he said. “We’re are going to go out there and if you have got guns, if you are shooting people, if you are doing drive-bys, we are going to find you and we are going to arrest you, and we are going to work together to find out who is doing this.”

King County gun violence

In just the first four months of 2017, the King County Sheriff’s Office has already logged a considerable number of firearm-related incidents in unincorporated parts of the county. The sheriff did not have the numbers from previous years on hand, but did say that they are “way up.”

• 14 homicides
• 40 shootings (people struck by gunfire, but survived)
• 100 drive-by shootings
• A total of 120 shots fired were reported to 911 in cities that the sheriff covers (Des Moines, Kent, etc.)

The numbers do not reflect Seattle’s statistics.

Seattle shots fired in a 12-month period starting in April:

• 2013: 73 reports
• 2014: 76 reports
• 2015: 113 reports
• 2016: 103 reports
• 2017: 119 reports

“The only common denominator is all the guns,” Urquhart said. “Individuals, groups of people, some gangs involved, but not 100 percent. It would be a mistake to say that this is a gang problem, because that is not exactly what this is in every situation.”

“This could be as simple as somebody disrespecting somebody else’s mother or somebody else’s girlfriend … There’s no one situation that applies to all this violence except that everybody has guns and they are shooting people,” he said. “They are shooting innocent people and they are shooting up houses.”

Ron and Don on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

  • Tune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 3pm for The Ron and Don Show.

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