SEATTLE - The problem of gun violence - and why nothing seems to change - took center stage at a community meeting in the Central District on Thursday night.
Seattle City Councilmember Lorena Gonazalez hosted the meeting as part of the regularly scheduled agenda for the public safety committee that she chairs. The topic was finding strategies to stop the shootings that have plagued the Central District for too long.
A deadly shooting in May cost a 19-year-old man his life, but the widespread community outrage did little to stop the gunfire.
“I have a sense of urgency around this because there was a fatality,” Gonzalez said. “I have a sense of urgency around this because we're continuing to see shots fired."
Representatives from the mayor’s office and several city departments presented current efforts and plans now in motion to make the community safer.
Seattle police have had ongoing violence emphasis patrols and gang units in the area, and that will continue. In the past month, officers have also increased foot and bike patrols in three areas that are notorious hot spots for shooting incidents.
Still, it's not enough.
“I don't feel that I can walk to Starbucks. I don't feel I can walk to the library. And there's been shootings in the place where my child bikes regularly,” said Rebecca Adrian, who lives in the neighborhood and attended the meeting for answers.
City officials talked about a holistic approach to the gun violence problem to succeed where past efforts have failed. On the practical side of things, more street lights will be installed and traffic-calming re-configurations are being explored on neighborhood streets.
Another big investment will focus on opportunities for teens this summer and after-hours. Neighborhood business revitalization efforts is also part of the mix, with the goal of creating or maintaining a “sense of place” where a community can thrive and crime might be curbed.
Gonzalez said she plans to push up the timelines on projects so people see results.
“I think it's about setting deadlines. I think it's about having a holistic approach,” Gonzalez said. “Again, one that doesn't just include law enforcement."
One of the suggestions made by a community member was for resources for people who have witnessed shootings to better deal with the trauma, which can linger and really impact their lives.
So far this year, seven shootings have been reported in the Central District, one of which was deadly. Many of the incidents are "gang-involved," according to police, and one of the biggest problems investigating the crimes are witnesses who won't cooperate.