Are big time gangs operating in King County?

May 24, 2024, 6:46 AM

king county gangs...

Police tape surrounds a crime scene. (Photo: Stefani Reynolds, Getty Images)

(Photo: Stefani Reynolds, Getty Images)

After a string of shootings occurred throughout King County, prosecutors believe the region is suffering from a gang problem, but it’s more complicated than it seems.

“Seattle is no different than any other major city where you see organized gangs, but you also see people who grew up together and may not have the formal definition of a gang, but they hang together and there’s a possible pattern of behavior there,” Casey McNerthney, director of communications at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, told KIRO Newsradio.

King County prosecutors have charged 30 murder cases so far this year — many of them involving a firearm.

Jason Rantz on Seattle gangs: Seattle has a gang problem that Democrats won’t mention

The two latest shootings happened within about 24 hours of each other. A West Seattle mom was struck by stray bullets as she slept in the same bed as her child in one shooting. Fortunately, the child was not injured, but in the second shooting, another toddler was left in critical condition after they were hit by a stray bullet.

Previous coverage on the shooting: 2-year-old hit with stray bullet in Skyway apartment shooting, in critical condition

“It’s too early to say in those cases exactly what’s happening,” McNerthney said. “Many of those are still with police investigators, so investigators will be looking at that possibility, the same as they would in any case of gun violence.”

Nearly every police or law enforcement agency in the area, alongside the King County Prosecutors’ Office, has a unit dedicated to violent crimes instigated primarily by gangs — focusing their time and resources on piecing together the puzzle that is the local gang scene.

“There are people behind the scenes and not in the headlines that every day look at social media activity, at patterns, at jail phone calls, at any source of information that they can use to prevent violence,” McNerthney said.

More from James Lynch: Ex-Tacoma cop Timothy Rankine plans to file lawsuit against city, attorney general

McNerthney stated it doesn’t matter whether it’s a tightly knit, organized gang or an informal group of friends who act badly, the violence is the same and both will be pursued, arrested and prosecuted to the extent the law allows.

“I think it’s frustrating for people sometimes because they don’t always hear about it in the headlines,” McNerthney added. “When you don’t hear about it, they want to know it is being done, but those steps to avoid gun violence and further violence while also trying to reach people before they get involved in it are certainly happening behind the scenes every day.”

You can read more of James Lynch’s stories here. Follow James on X, or email him here.

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Are big time gangs operating in King County?