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Officials, community work to stem violence in south King County

BURIEN, Wash. – King County leaders are concerned with what appears to be a growing violence problem lurking in the southern portion of the county.

The latest incident happened just five days ago as two teenage girls were killed in a shooting outside an apartment building.

Elizabeth Juarez, 13, and Eveona Cortez, 19, were both shot and killed near the Alturas apartment complex on Wednesday night.

Police say so far they have no suspects but believe it was gang-related.

On Monday Q13 News heard for the very first time from high-level county officials about the violence - and what community members are doing to take back their streets.

“This terrible tragedy with two teenage girls being gunned down in this community cannot go unanswered,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Elizabeth’s sister Mary says she was a young, amazing girl who got caught up with a street gang.

“Her being affiliated and involved with all that made her feel like she needed to be tougher,” she said.

Gang shootings have happened before in south King County and Constantine says the most difficult struggle is keeping young people out of that kind of life in the first place.

“That is a pattern we have seen before and quite recently, where there is a shooting and one in retaliation and it goes on indefinitely,” he said. “That requires police officers to stop and it requires a functional criminal justice system to be able to keep people safe, keep them from harming others, the interventions are critical, figuring out how to get these kids out of that life and on track is critical.”

“Everybody in the city is just appalled by this,” said Burien resident Rob Halpin. “We’re shocked and certainly scared, a number of us, and we feel terrible for the families involved.”

Halpin and his online group Localists.org hopes to make a difference where they can.

He says neighbors are now cataloging locations of possible graffiti, and they’re working on plans to help private property owners cover up tags in an effort to take back their neighborhoods.

“A lot of the tags seems to have a common theme and we’d like to make sure whoever is making these tags knows our neighborhoods aren’t going to take it,” he said.

Burien residents spoke out at a City Council meeting Monday night.