Seattle homicides set record, but King County has big plans and lots of funding to prevent gun violence
As Seattle marks its 61st homicide of 2023, breaking last year's record, King County officials are planning a new Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention. The announcement comes at the same time the Department of Justice is sending millions to Washington in gun violence prevention funding.
"The pain of gun violence is all too familiar, and too many of our friends, family, and neighbors are facing this preventable tragedy every day," King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. "Our new office will connect us with the federal resources of the White House, serve as a hub for the region, and expand our local initiatives to ensure every community in King County can be safe from gun violence.”
The new Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention will operate under Public Health – Seattle & King County, and will coordinate the region's gun violence efforts. It will oversee existing programs, such as the county's Community Violence Intervention. Services from that effort are slated to expand to Burien, Kent, and Skyway in 2024.
The latest effort comes as Seattle experiences the highest level of homicides in three decades, making 2023 the city's bloodiest year in recent memory. Statewide, crime rates rose in 2022, particularly homicides and car thefts. The state had the highest level of murders since the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs began collecting data in 1980.
The new office will also work with King County's Regional Peacekeepers Collective. Since it was launched in 2021, the collective has supported more than 200 families affected by gun violence and has hosted more than 250 community events. It has engaged 375 young people, and responded to 135 "critical incidents," according to a statement. It has also given out more than 700 firearm lockboxes.
The creation of the office is part of a series of gun violence prevention efforts in the county scheduled for 2024. The Seattle Seahawks will host a Leadership Advisory Group meeting next year, which Constantine is putting together with business leaders, elected officials, and local philanthropies. There will also be an annual Together We End Gun Violence Conference in 2024. A training academy for people working with gun violence victims is also on the table.
Millions from DOJ coming to Washington state
The county's announcement for the Regional Office of Gun Violence Prevention comes at the same time the Department of Justice is sending $11 million in grant funding to Washington state. The money is targeted at community and youth violence programs.
“These federal dollars will help identify and support local programs that are working to reduce violence in our community,” Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said in a statement. “I am particularly pleased to see the focus on youth violence and stopping gun crime. The epidemic of gun violence in our neighborhoods requires a sustained response from both law enforcement and community.”
The largest share of the funding is going to the Washington State Department of Commerce and Seattle's Children and Youth Justice Center — each will receive $4 million. The money is intended to be given to organizations in underserved communities, and to pay for training and assistance for up to five community-based organizations serving King County youth.
DOJ grant funding is also slated for:
- King County's Department of Community and Human Services, Children Youth and Adult Division: $1 million to help reduce recidivism
- Tacoma police: $800,000 for gun crime investigations, and potentially the use of ShotSpotter technology that locates where gunshots are coming from.
- Western District of Washington: $285,039 for gun violence prevention in the South Sound, Clark County, and Snohomish County.
- Eastern District of Washington: $110,648 to support gang violence intervention around Yakima and Kennewick.
- Educational Service District 112 in Clark County: $1 million for school-based mental health treatment. Funding will be for three therapists to serve students.