DES MOINES, WASH. - Local, state and federal law enforcement partners held a meeting to discuss various strategies to address the increase in violence in South King County on Thursday.
There were about 50 participants from Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, Bellevue and SeaTac Police Departments, King County Sheriff’s Office, WA State Department of Corrections, Secret Service, Homeland Security, King County Prosecutor’s Office, Washington State Patrol, FBI, ATF, DEA and the Washington State Fusion Center.
Chief Ken Thomas of Des Moines Police Department said, "There was a lot of frustration in the room due to a lot of the violence that’s occurring, but there was a lot of optimism also that we are going to do what we can, everything within our power, to address the violence and really go after those people that are the most responsible for some of the gang activity, some of the drug activity and of course the violence that is occurring in South King County."
Currently, Des Moines is experiencing the highest levels of homicides and violent crimes in the city’s history, according to Chief Thomas.
"We’re in a time of significant violent crime activity, and it’s really incumbent upon us as law enforcement leaders to do everything we can to address that," said Chief Thomas. "There is a lot of fear in that area, and really it’s our job as law enforcement to not only come up with a plan but execute a plan that’s sustainable."
Chief Thomas said Des Moines and Kent Police share the intersection of Kent-Des Moines Road and Pacific High Way South, and in that area alone there have been at least seven shootings and two homicides in the last two months.
Multiple police agencies are now implementing similar strategies. Kent Police said officers are working with businesses in the area to find solutions, doing in-depth investigations to make arrests and implementing high visibility patrols and enforcement.
The Chief said there will be heightened enforcement of drug, gang and gun activity.
The police department will deploy behavioral health workers to engage with people who are experiencing homelessness and drug addiction along Pacific Highway S.
"Most importantly, it takes good solid prosecution and accountability for those that are engaged in wrongdoing to ensure that we can make an impact," said Chief Thomas.
The King County Executive’s Office, mayors and police chiefs in South King County, judges and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) had a meeting on Wednesday night to start discussing a coordinated safety plan.
"We all have the same goals. We want decreased recidivism. We want people to feel safe and be safe and the more we can talk honestly with one another like we did last night, I think the better off," said spokesperson Casey McNerthney of the KCPAO.
Chief Thomas believes it’s going to take at least one or two years to start making a lasting sustainable impact.
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