Message from the Police Chief: Addressing a surge of violence in Federal Way

There have been eight murders in Federal Way so far this year, police chief says.

We have experienced a surge of violence in the month of November. Two people lost their lives to violent crime and others were shot and sustained serious injuries. It is completely unacceptable and we will not tolerate it.

In the latest shooting incident at the Sunset Apartments, our detectives have identified the shooter and are actively searching for him. In addition, the detectives have made an arrest in the Calvary Lutheran Church homicide and the suspect has been charged with murder.

As Chief of Police, I could not be prouder of our detectives who working tirelessly to develop leads to solve these and other violent crimes, to bring justice for the victims and their families.

No doubt taking these violent offenders off of our streets will prevent future incidents such as these and protect our residents.

The nation, our region, and King County are experiencing an increase in gun violence and the Federal Way community is caught up in it.

In King County, there were 102 murders in 2020 and 69 fatal shooting victims — an increase of 27%. It was a historic year for King County, but the matter has only gotten worse since then. In the first nine months of 2021, there has been 73 fatal shooting victims. This is up 71% over a four-year average, surpassing all of 2020 shots-fired incidents.

We are seeing an unprecedented number of shootings in King County. In Federal Way, we have experienced eight murders year to date.

Here are some of the things we are doing to address violence in our community:

  • When significant violent gun crime occurs, such as a homicide, we prioritize our resources to capture the offender(s).
  • Conduct regular gun emphasis patrols in known problem locations.
  • Using crime analysis data to direct uniform patrols at specific locations.
  • Partner with federal and state law enforcement agencies, working together to identify ballistic connections between inter-jurisdictional gun crimes.
  • We have a detective assigned to the Drug Enforcement Administration Task Force to focus on drug trafficking in our area.
  • 13 more police officers will be added to the force.
  • Partnering with King County Prosecutor’s Office to work collaboratively to identify prolific offenders for more aggressive prosecution.
  • Participating in regular South King County criminal intelligence meetings to identify prolific gun-violent offenders.
  • Expansion of Safe City Camera Program and license plate reader cameras.

We are currently in a drug epidemic, which is fueling much of the violence. Much of the shootings Federal Way is experiencing are drug deals gone bad or have a nexus to drugs. It is nearly impossible to predict where drug dealers will meet or where their violence will erupt.

As a region, we must have the political will to curtail the demand for drugs and pass stricter laws to hold offenders accountable in order to reduce the level of gun violence and other crimes that are impacting the quality of life in our communities.

Changes in our public environment with the drug epidemic and its reduced accountability for offenders in Washington are contributing factors in the lawlessness that is occurring in our region and in Federal Way. It will take a lot of people working together to reverse this trend.

Our policy group (Mayor Jim Ferrell and City Council) will actively work with the state representatives in the upcoming months to improve state laws to hold offenders more accountable.

Earlier this year, the Washington Legislature passed a bill, which essentially de-criminalized possession of dangerous drugs (including heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, fentanyl and so forth). Drug use is more rampant and blatant than ever, and fatal overdose is an increasing plague to King County’s communities. Our Federal Way elected officials will work with law makers to make it a felony crime again for someone who “knowingly” possesses dangerous drugs.

When we experience sudden gun violence, we recognize it can be unsettling. The number one responsibility of government is to keep our residents safe. Nothing else we do is as important as that.

The Federal Way community is very fortunate to have incredible men and women within our police department who are honorable and committed to working tirelessly to serve and protect our residents.

If you and your family ever need immediate assistance, please know that the men and women of FWPD stand ready and will be there for you.

We wish you and your loved ones a happy and safe holiday season.

It is an honor for us to serve you!

Police Chief Andy J. Hwang

Federal Way Police Department