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Gang violence in Federal Way and King County: Technology to the rescue

King County law enforcement agencies will work smarter and harder to stomp out escalating youth violence.

Local, county, state and federal agencies dedicated themselves to ending violence among youths Dec. 16 at a Seattle press conference. Technology and improved communication within law enforcement are seen as ways to decrease the crime, specifically crime related to gangs.

"We are all here for a particular reason — to stop youth violence," Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said. "This is about dropping the hammer."

The move initiated with the King County Police Chiefs Association, headed by Federal Way police chief Brian Wilson. Each King County agency currently works to decrease gang presence and youth violence, but with the Regional Gang Crime/Youth Violence Information Sharing Project, efforts will be more timely and information sharing more common.

"Coordination, collaboration and shared information between jurisdictions is essential to identify and arrest those responsible for serious crimes," Wilson said.

Smart technology

Technology and communication will play a significant part in assisting police.

Gang Emphasis Team E-mail (GETEM) is a system started by Seattle Police Department. It is used to share information on known gangs and their members. Seattle also has a detective serving on the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An FBI agent is also assigned with the Seattle police.

Information gathered by these sources can now be shared with other agencies through GETEM. Whenever a high-profile case involving youth violence occurs in King County, a lead detective will distribute information about the incident within 24 hours. A broadcast will be released to law enforcement within one hour. A follow up will be issued within the next two hours.

"If we work smarter through technology and leverage these resources, we can get the job done," Kerlikowske said.

Federal Way impact

The timely flow of information will allow police to work together to identify patterns and similarities in youth violence. The results will be similar to those seen when Federal Way police requested information from other agencies to identify suspects in the Dec. 4 shooting near Alderdale Park that resulted in the death of a 19-year-old male.

"Within minutes we received information back from other agencies with possible leads," Wilson said.

Two suspects were arrested shortly following. A 15-year-old suspect later told police he and 17-year-old Domanique Moore of Federal Way, now charged with first-degree murder, were members of the Black Gangster Disciples.

The city introduced a gang unit in September. Gang graffiti and two prior shootings, which are suspected to be gang-related, illustrated the need, Lt. Casey Jones said.

Regional impact

Regionally, gang and youth crime has taken the spotlight recently. A 16-year-old male was killed Nov. 22 when a shootout took place at the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila. Police think the incident may be linked to a gang. Police were also investigating two other shootings involving Seattle youth — one in Seattle and another in Rainier Valley — that could be linked to the Southcenter shooting. A 22-year-old man died as a result of the Seattle shooting. Two males, ages 16 and 17, were injured in the Rainier Valley shooting.

"The bottom line for us is we have 15-year-old kids killing each other," King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said. "Our job is to focus on suppression right now. We are going to pull out all the stops to keep them from killing each other."

Teens and firearms

Identifying how teens are acquiring the firearms used in their crimes could help suppress the violence. Recovered firearms used in youth and gang-related crimes will be swabbed for DNA and bullets and casings will be traced.

"The youth violence is at a younger age and far more lethal because of the presence of firearms," Kerlikowske said.

Additionally, police will rely on other youths and witnesses to provide information about violent crimes. Crime Stoppers takes anonymous tips through text messaging: Enter TIP486 plus the message and send it to CRIMES (274637). This has proved a helpful tool, Kerlikowske said.

Federal Way police plan to coordinate with the school district to make students aware of this technology, Wilson said. Gang and youth violence is a problem region-wide, but not one that cannot be overcome by dedication from multiple jurisdictions, Wilson said.

"I really think we can make a difference with this issue," he said.

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