Long one of the safest cities, Seattle had 612 shootings and shots-fired incidents last year, nearly double its pre-pandemic average. The city has just experienced its two worst years for homicides since the 1990s, when murders were at all-time highs. Gunfire has erupted all across King County, not just in neighborhoods plagued by violence, reports the Wall Street Journal. County prosecutor Dan Satterberg filed murder charges against a 14-year-old alleged to have randomly gunned down one man in January and another in October. In 30 years as a prosecutor, he couldn’t recall charging a person so young with two killings.
Seattle is one of many that have seen shootings and killings jump since the onset of the pandemic. Several cities, including Albuquerque, Philadelphia and Portland, Or., endured their deadliest year ever in 2021. Officials are struggling to understand why. They cite factors such as the social chaos wrought by the pandemic, which stalled efforts that steer young people away from crime. Officials also cite fallout from protests over police killings, which led to a push to defund the police and a pullback by officers. While Seattle’s murder rate remains lower than other major cities, it leapt above the U.S. average in 2020 for the first time in more than a decade. The owner of a bakery shut her downtown location after a man was shot to death near the store entrance in broad daylight. Voters in the liberal-leaning city elected a tough-on-crime Republican as city attorney in November, and for mayor, picked a moderate Democrat who vowed to bolster the police force and combat gun violence. About 360 officers left Seattle’s force in the past two years, leaving about 950. At the beginning of the pandemic, Seattle had 1,305 officers.