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Gun-related crime increasing, especially in South Seattle

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SEATTLE – In the past 24 hours, five people have been shot in Seattle, including a 16-year-old girl who died from her injuries, and a couple in their 70s who had to be rushed to Harborview Medical Center.

The intensity of gun violence is not something people are used to seeing in the city.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said when the weather turns warmer, the department often sees an increase in crime.

Q13 News dug into the city’s data about gun crimes and it reveals a marked increase, especially in the south end.

“It has to stop. The community is not going to tolerate it and the police department is not going to tolerate it,” said O’Toole when she visited one of the crime scenes on Thursday.

A 16-year-old girl was gunned down while sitting inside a parked car along Rainier Avenue Wednesday night in what police said was likely a targeted shooting. But a man in a nearby bakery was hit, too; his injury wasn't life threatening. Then hours later, near Dearborn Avenue, a man and woman both in their 70s were shot while simply driving their car only blocks away.

In response, Seattle Police said it beefed up patrols in the area but so far had not linked the two shootings or connected them to gangs.

“There’s no question there’s been some gang activity in the area and our gang detectives are on top of that,” O’Toole said.

SPD has a data team that breaks down crime by the numbers and it reveal that reports of shots fired and gun-related crimes are on the rise.

From the beginning of the year to April 17, shots fired across the city were recorded as being on the rise across the city this year compared to the past two. The South Precinct has seen more of them compared to the rest by more than a double-digit difference.

SPD also tracks shootings, where people are injured or killed by gunfire, and compared to 2016, incidents are on the rise this year.

The data also showed all gun-related crimes across the city spiked from February into March of this year, which was different than years past.

“We have a choice right now to fix this problem or it will get progressively worse,” said Pat Murakami with the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council.

She believes the gun crimes are related to illegal homeless camps and that they attract the criminal element.

“It doesn’t matter what you do and the word has spread throughout the nation, come to ‘Freeattle,’ we’ll give you free food possibly free housing and you can do what you want,” said Murakami.

Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell told Q13 News there was no data proving a spike in gun crimes is connected at all to the homelessness issue.

“I don’t know whether that’s true or not and I think it’s a dangerous precedence to start spreading information you do not know that’s true, so I will not give into that,” Harrell said. “We will deal with the facts and will aggressively pursue that but there’s been no basis for that so far.”

Chief O’Toole said her department called a special meeting Thursday morning with other local and federal law enforcement agencies in response to the spike in shootings.

Q13 News also reached out to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office seeking comment about the recent rash of gun crimes and the recent spike in violence. A spokesperson for Murray's office pointed Q13 News to O'Toole's statement posted Thursday afternoon.