Prosecutors: Homicides, assaults increase in King County

SEATTLE (AP) — Shooting deaths and injuries increased in the first nine months of the year in King County, Washington state said, which prosecutors attributed in part to uncertainty and anxiety caused by the pandemic.

The King County prosecuting attorney's office released a report saying there were 58 homicides and 198 assaults with firearms between January and September, The Seattle Times reported.

The department has been collecting data primarily from eight police agencies since 2017 for its Shots Fired project, a report documenting the rise in gun violence. The agencies include the King County sheriff's office and the Seattle, Tukwila, Renton, Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and Des Moines police departments.

Together the agencies account for 79% of the county's population and respond to most incidents.

Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said the report reaffirms beliefs that there has been an increase in violence.

The report said the number of shooting incidents in the county grew by 15% compared with the three-year average for the same nine-month period. It also showed the number of people fatally shot increased by 58% and the number of people who survived shootings rose by 34%.

“It’s been a bad year. I’d temper that by saying it’s been a bad year everywhere,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Dan Carew said. “I don’t think anyone has a good explanation other than the pandemic-related economic and health stresses” that have impacted communities across the country.

The National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice obtained data from 27 cities in the U.S. with populations greater than 250,000 people, including Seattle, and determined homicides were 53% higher and aggravated assaults ticked up 14% this summer compared to the same period last year.

Satterberg said at the beginning of the pandemic that he didn't know what to expect in relation to the crimes, but thought there would be fewer interactions with people at home and isolated.

“The increase in violence, looking back now is not surprising given the stressors of this year,” he said. “What I think is happening in 2020 is all the conditions have amplified despair and anxiety and uncertainty and fed the conditions that lead to violence as a response to shame."