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Gun violence in King County continues rise to ‘crisis’ levels

Police secure the scene of a shooting at 3rd Avenue and Pine Street on Jan. 22, 2020, in the central business district of Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

A new report indicates that King County continues to see an increase in gun violence in the first half of 2021, after an increase of nearly 200 incidents over that same period last year.

King County community ‘up in arms’ over recent spike in gun violence

In total, the county identified 580 total shots fired incidents in the first two quarters of 2021. That marked an increase of roughly 33% over the four-year average between 2017 and 2020. There was also a 61% increase in shooting victims.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg is sounding the alarm.

“We are in a public health crisis,” he said in a Thursday news release. “We are in a public safety crisis in those communities where gun violence is highly concentrated.”

While gun violence in Seattle continues to be a concern, the majority of 2021’s incidents were actually reported by agencies outside of the city, including Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Tukwila, and parts of unincorporated King County.

Gun violence in King County was already on the rise in 2020, “and has accelerated even more through the first half of 2021,” the county prosecutor’s office noted. These incidents have also disproportionately affected the region’s BIPOC community, with nearly 80% of victims being people of color, while nearly half have been Black.

As for what’s driving this increase in shootings, Satterberg points to larger national trends that have begun to take shape over the last year.

“This increase is not unique to King County,” his office outlined. “Nearly every major city, and many rural areas, have seen an increase in firearm violence since the start of 2020. There is no single explanation behind the increase, but the common explanations of the pandemic, the protests, and the prevalence of guns are all likely contributing factors.”

Seattle had ‘highest number of murders in 26 years’ in 2020

In Seattle, local leaders are hoping to help tackle the crisis with a $2 million investment in a new pilot program known as the King County Regional Peacekeepers Collective. The program will seek to provide resources for family support specialists, wraparound case management, and community engagement to “help disrupt the cycle of gun violence.”

King County also invested $1.47 million of its own into the collective to fund the hiring of “violence interrupters,” case managers, and life coaches to work in communities like White Center, Skyway, Burien, Kent, and the Central District, as well as consultants with experience handling gun violence in cities like Oakland.

The program is comprised of a coalition of local groups, including Choose 180, Alive and Free, Community Passageways, and more.

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