Profile No. 30

Youth Firearms Violence Initiative -- Seattle, WA

Program Type or Federal Program Source:
Initiative to deter gun carrying in high-crime hotspot areas; Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Program Goal:
To reduce youth firearm violence through targeted and focused enforcement efforts.

Specific Groups Targeted by the Strategy:
Chronic youth weapons offenders.

Geographical Area Targeted by the Strategy:
Seattle, WA.

Evaluated by:
University of Washington; Abt Associates Inc., Cambridge, MA.

Contact Information:
Julie Baker, Grant Coordinator
Community Information and
Services Bureau
Seattle Police Department
610 Third Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206­233­5133

Years of Operation:

Seattle experienced an increase in juvenile violence through the late 1980's and early 1990's. In 1994, there were a total of 77 juvenile firearm-related crime incidents, and the total jumped to 151 incidents by 1995. As in most cities, a small number of serious and chronic juvenile offenders in Seattle were responsible for the majority of serious juvenile crimes. In response to this increase in violence, the Seattle Police Department (SPD) instituted department wide community policing and launched the Youth Firearms Violence Initiative which was funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and awarded to SPD in October 1995.

Violence prevention and intervention strategies

Prior to 1996, SPD had initiated a variety of intervention and prevention initiatives, including the Seattle Team for Youth (STFY), which provides intensive services for youth who are in gangs or are otherwise "at risk."

The program emphasizes family involvement and linking youth and families to social services, counseling, and other support services. SPD also began developing the Options, Choices and Consequences program which involved a 2-day presentation to eighth and ninth grade students by police officers and medical and legal professionals on the consequences of gun use. In schools, COPS office-funded community policing officers worked full time as School Emphasis Patrol Officers in various prevention, intervention, and school safety projects. The Community Safety Workgroup was formed to integrate the city's efforts to support youth, control firearms, change negative community attitudes that foster violence, and raise community awareness of and involvement in violence prevention.

Enforcement strategies

The Seattle Police Department focused its enforcement efforts in schools by establishing School Enforcement Teams (SET's) in each of Seattle's four precincts. SET's were made up of officers working in the schools. Each SET was headed by an STFY detective and augmented by patrol officers who provided an additional police presence. These teams coordinated with school administrators on various enforcement and problem-solving projects and worked closely with crime analysts assigned to precinct stations. Monthly team meetings were critical in identifying special problems related to incidences of violence in particular schools and improving the level of communication and problem solving among police, schools, and other agencies.

A new computer-mapping crime analysis system was created with the long-term goal of providing precinct officers access to a data base that would help them identify problems occurring in their neighborhoods or around their area schools. Information from this system was deemed essential to full implementation of the problem-solving or identification and response model.

To target chronic juvenile gun offenders, a system was established for tracking violent offenders and disseminating information through the department and other social service agencies to reduce the anonymity of the juveniles and refer the offenders to intervention services. A list of the 50 most violent juveniles was developed, and a notebook index system was created containing information on the juveniles' characteristics, offense histories, gang affiliations, and probation orders and conditions. In addition, conditions of probation imposed by the courts for the 50 targeted juveniles were added to the SPD information system. This information, in turn, could be accessed through Mobile Data Terminals in patrol cars.

Increased communication between police and probation resulted in police and probation teams being able to increase surveillance on the most serious violent offenders and enforce conditions of probation. A pilot program was implemented pairing probation officers with police officers.

Enhanced prosecution for serious violent juvenile offenders was instituted through the addition of a new full-time position in the King County Prosecutor's Office, which resulted in changes to procedures for filing and handling cases (to speed up processing) and increases in conviction rates. The prosecutor also provided training to police officers on how to successfully prepare firearm reports on juveniles by identifying essential elements of offenses that need to be in police reports (such as age of offender, weapon operability, and issues related to establishing possession) (see profile 42).

During the 1995 to 1997 period, when efforts of the Youth Firearms Violence Initiative were most intensive, SPD reported 139 weapons violations and 77 arrests made specifically through the program. In a comparison of the first 4 months of the 1997 school year with the same 4-month period of the previous year, it was reported that weapons violations in the Seattle schools had declined by 23 percent (falling from 47 to 36).

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report