By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Just after 9 am Tuesday, we noted here that a City Council committee had scheduled a briefing today about gun violence.
Just before 9 pm Tuesday, West Seattle’s second shooting in three days took the life of a 23-year-old man.
This morning’s briefing ended a little over an hour ago, and while much of it was focused on citywide trends, prepared long before the deadly shots last night on Alki Beach, councilmembers did ask repeatedly about the case and what will be done to try to prevent more violence and to reach out to neighbors.
The stats regarding the number of gunfire incidents/shootings are through May 15th, councilmembers were told. So that does not include the two West Seattle shootings in the past three days – Sunday in High Point, last night on Alki.
About the deadly shooting itself. SPD management at the briefing said the same thing that had been sent out as an SPD Blotter update earlier in the morning – it’s not believed to be random. Some sort of confrontation preceded it, with a large group in the area “because it was a nice day.”
West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold – not a member of the committee but in attendance – asked about plans for increased patroling on Alki. The main part of the answer: Bicycle patroling was being stepped up.
She also asked about use of the mobile precinct – after years without one, the SW Precinct got its own in late 2015 (WSB file photo above) – and how that’s decided. It’s up to the precinct commander, she was told.
At that point, we messaged SW Precinct leadership and talked with Operations Lt. Ron Smith. The mobile precinct has spent some time on Alki already this year, he said, but they have to balance it with deployment to our area’s other trouble spots – Westwood, Roxhill Park, Don Armeni Boat Ramp (last weekend), South Park, among others.
Councilmember Lorena González, the West Seattle-residing at-large councilmember who chairs the committee that was briefed today, said she had heard good things about the mobile precinct’s use and wondered about its funding and staffing. She also asked what SPD’s plans are regarding reaching out to neighbors and others worried about what happened last night and about safety in general. She referred to a woman who had spoken about the Alki shooting, emotionally, during the public-comment period at the start of the meeting.
The response started out with a mention of Community Police Team outreach and eventually circled around to a suggestion that SPD could call a community meeting to provide information and answer concerns. And what we hear at every police briefing at neighborhood meetings was reiterated – call 911 if you see something that makes you “feel uncomfortable … we need to come out and see what’s going on.”
Again, this briefing was scheduled long before what happened last night, and was more intended to address a wave of shootings in the South Precinct jurisdiction earlier this year, as well as citywide trends. Toplines on that included SPD reps saying that Seattle’s violent-crime rate is lower than it was a few years ago – same number of incidents, more residents.
But the number of gunfire incidents this year is higher than previous years, and here’s some of what’s being done to address that:
SPD says they’re looking at “street segments” where there are repeated problems and trying to analyze how to address it – for example, one such location somewhere in the city was a convenience store, so they were looking at talking with the business owner about better lighting. (There’s no grant money to help with that, so far as SPD knows, though – that was noted in response to a question.) Somewhere else in the city, a house that was repeatedly fired at was once the home of gang members, and though they had moved, their “opponents” continued to go by and shoot at it.
What about public perception that safety could be improved by police visibility in known trouble spots? Herbold asked. SPD says they do ask officers to drive through such areas, spend “down time” in such areas. Data-gathering is a big part of their effort to reduce the problem. So is regional collaboration to put what happens into context and try to prevent future instances, and the recognition that some of the trouble stems from people “coming into and out of our city.”
Collaboration with other agencies includes tracing shells/firearms with help of ATF.
Video of the entire briefing should be available via Seattle Channel‘s video archives by day’s end, and we’ll embed it here when it is. (Added: Here’s the video.)
We’ve also asked the Southwest Precinct for any additional details of what’s planned in terms of a presence on Alki for the upcoming holiday weekend, which is likely to be a busy one at the beach with sunshine predicted to return starting Friday and continuing into next week.