Gang-related violence in Seattle appears to be on the rise with a recent surge in drive-by shootings and assaults, authorities say.
Such violence had been decreasing in recent years, with caseloads for gang investigators hitting 150 in 2003, then fewer than 100 in 2005. But caseloads began to climb again last year, with many reports of gang violence concentrated in Seattle's Central District, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Monday.
"I think we're gonna find it's going to be a busy summer," Seattle police Gang Unit supervisor Lt. Ron Wilson said. "I think it's picking up now."
On Friday, Seattle police swarmed Westlake Center after a reported shooting. Four young people were arrested and officers found a large revolver.
Police wouldn't say the shooting was gang-related, but Gang Unit Sgt. Jim Dyment said at least one of those detained frequented a Central area hangout popular with one gang.
Last month, local and federal law enforcement arrested nearly 50 men on various drug charges. Many of them were alleged gang members.
Black community leaders have also come forward, in part because much of the violence involves young Black men.
"We need law enforcement, but this is an issue that the black community will have to solve," said the Rev. Harriet Walden, who since 1999 has highlighted the issue of Black-on-Black crime through her Web site, silentwar.org. "It's imperative that we let our young people know that being part of a gang, using violence, is not OK."
Contributing to the rise in gang violence is the release from prison of older gangsters looking to reassert their authority. Also, there are fights over drug turf or groups trying to settle disputes.
Seattle's gang unit was formed in the 1980s, and at one time included more than 25 detectives to deal with the wealth of gang activity. Now it has just six detectives and a sergeant.
To give the unit's officers more time on the streets, homicide detectives have been tapped to follow up on cases that would normally bog down gang detectives.
"It's giving us ample time to hit the streets and be more visible," said Detective Miko Santiago, a former Army military policeman and 12-year veteran of the Gang Unit.
Recent shootings seem to be part of an ongoing feud between two rival gangs in the Central area, authorities said.
"You got in-house fighting going," said Gabe Morales, an expert on local gangs. "That's what's going on these last few months in the Central District."
Gang violence and shootings have been an unfortunate part of the neighborhood for several years, said Gene Rivers, an artist who has lived most of his 62 years in the area.
"I couldn't say if it's gotten worse," he said. "I'm sure of one thing, it hasn't gotten better."
—The Associated Press