DOJ Awards Nearly $500,000 to Combat Gun Crime in Seattle
Innovative Approach Combines Gun Tracing and Prosecutions with Prevention Efforts
The U.S. Department of Justice today awarded nearly $500,000 in federal grant money for an innovative program to reduce gun violence in Seattle, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. The grant, under the Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN) program supports the Puget Sound Regional Crime Gun Task Force, which is focused on increasing the ability of law enforcement to trace shell casings and firearms used in crimes and thus identify shooters and take them off the streets. The grant will also pay part of the costs for a Special Assistant United States Attorney to prosecute gun crimes, and provides funding to Harborview Medical Center to work with gunshot victims in an innovative hospital-based intervention and structured outreach program to prevent future firearm-related crime.
“Research led by Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center shows that individuals admitted to the hospital for gunshot wounds are at a significantly higher risk of being killed, arrested or reinjured with a gun in the five years following admission,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “This grant not only helps law enforcement identify and prosecute those who are involved in gun crime, it works to help stop the cycle of violence by intervening with high-risk individuals.”
“The Project Safe Neighborhood program has allowed us to create a successful partnership among state and federal prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies, to combat and decrease gun violence in our region by identifying the worst of the worst firearms and violent offenders in our state’s largest county,” said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.
The grant will make it possible for all crime gun information to be entered into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) database within 72 hours of an incident. NIBIN is administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and provides federal, state and local law enforcement, forensic scientists, and prosecutorial agencies with an automated ballistic imaging system that aids investigations by using digital images of shell casings to link crimes involving firearms. By connecting cases involving the same firearm more efficiently and effectively, NIBIN can have a direct impact on solving violent crime. The grant allocates $50,000 to eliminate a backlog of more than 5000 shell casings in Western Washington waiting to be tested.
“Thorough analysis of forensic evidence is a vital component of our ongoing efforts to curb gun violence in our community,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “This grant will help fund our collaborative partnership with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab to trace all spent shell casings found at crime scenes.”
In addition, the grant helps support the salary of a Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor who is specially designated to prosecute firearms cases in federal court. This prosecutor reviews all firearms cases filed in King County to evaluate whether they are appropriate for federal prosecution and the supervised release that follows the prison term. The grant also supports the FACE program (Firearms Crimes Enhancement Program) which informs soon to be released state offenders of the potential federal penalties for possessing a firearm.
Finally, the grant funding provides for anti-violence initiatives in the community and with groups identified as at high risk for involvement in gun violence. Nearly $40,000 is targeted for the Seattle Police Department to develop a strategic plan for addressing gang violence. Over two years, more than $50,000 will fund research and outreach at Harborview’s Injury Prevention & Research Center in an innovative program to work with gunshot victims to prevent future firearms related injury. An additional $30,000 is allocated for media outreach addressing gun violence and approximately $100,000 is set aside for academic study and review of the funded programs to determine the level of effectiveness of the grant-supported strategies.
“Our communal sense of safety has been shaken by recent national and local episodes of gun violence,” said UW Medicine’s Dr. Monica Vavilala, director, Harborview Injury Prevention & Research Center. “Most firearm violence is preventable and the grant funding will allow us to address key causes of gun violence and lay the groundwork for developing programs that work to reduce firearm related injuries.”
Special Agent in Charge Douglas Dawson of the ATF Seattle Field Division said “I am excited about the Project Safe Neighborhood funding and I look forward to working with our Federal, State and Local partners in our continual efforts towards the reduction of violent crime in the Western District of Washington.”