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King County proposes $1.4M budget amendment to curb gun violence after weekend shootings

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 6/15/2021 by Callie Craighead, SeattlePI
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King County officials have proposed new emergency budget amendments aimed at reducing gun violence following a series of shootings last week in the Central District, White Center and Pioneer Square that left four people dead and two others injured.

King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled the "urgent" new budget proposal on Tuesday which includes $1.47 million in investments to address the increase in gun violence through "data-driven identification of the groups and neighborhoods at the highest risk of being involved in a shooting, increased community engagement, and increasing community staffing with employees to connect community members to services and support opportunities," according to the county.

Of that $1.47 million, $768,000 will go towards adding 10 additional violence interrupters, case managers and life coaches hired through community partners. An additional $100,000 will go to consultant firms who have previously studied gun violence in cities like Oakland.

"Stopping the gun violence our community witnessed last weekend in the Central District, White Center, and Pioneer Square requires more than just a criminal justice response — it requires the upstream, public health-based interventions we know can help unwind conflict and prevent future tragedies," Constantine said in a news release Tuesday.

Data from the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office shows that so far in 2021 there have been 253 shots fired incidents in the county, with 16 firearm homicide victims and 53 nonfatal injuries. The office found that shots fired incidents were up 25% so far this year compared to the four-year average, with fatal shooting victims up 36% over that same time period.

A breakdown of demographics found that the shooting victims were predominately young men of color, with 42% of the victims being between the ages of 18-24.

The proposal also includes $227,000 to expand the Regional Peacekeepers Collective, a new pilot program that uses a public health approach to address community-based gun violence. King County Councilmember Joe McDermott has sponsored the budget amendments.

"In what is shaping up to be a record breaking, heartbreaking year for gun violence in our country, interventions that place people and communities first are going to be integral to stop this pain," McDermott said in a news release. "From community violence to interpersonal violence, the Peacekeepers Collective can and will make a big impact once we deliver this support."

Seattle experienced a dramatic increase in homicides in 2020, but overall violent crime was slightly down for the year. A total of 52 homicides occurred in 2020 within the city, a 48.57% increase from the previous year. Sixty-percent of homicides in 2020 were committed with a gun, according to end-of-year data released by the Seattle Police Department.

Interim Police Chief Adrian Diaz remarked that the city experienced the highest number of murders in 26 years and vowed to continue "working with the community to reduce the frequency of people carrying guns."

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