Seattle, Tacoma city officials worried about violent summer as shootings, homicides rise

The Seattle interim police chief and the mayor of Tacoma expressed concerns that their respective cities could see a violent summer as shootings and homicides continue to trend upward.

Interim SPD chief Adrian Diaz said his concerns stem from the Memorial Day weekend-- a time that the city typically examines when looking ahead to the summer. 

"We gauge our summer based on the Memorial Day weekend and there were a lot of shots fired," said Diaz. "We’ve already had over 100 more shots fired this year than compared to last year, and last year was our all-time high."

Over that Memorial Day weekend, Seattle had two shootings with injuries and eight other reports of shots fired. 

Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards shared a bleak statistic for her city as well. 

"We are at 23 homicides this year," said Woodards. "There have been years when we didn't have 23 homicides in a whole year. We need common-sense gun laws." 

The recent tragedies in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, along with the spike in local shootings, have put mayors, police chiefs and any decision-makers responsible for public safety under the spotlight to affect change.

Diaz is looking at local statistics to see what the root of the problem is and how to solve it. 

"We are trying to understand each and every one of those cases to determine the nexus of what is it related to," Diaz said of the weekend’s shootings. "We are trying to find out if it was a robbery nexus or whether it was related to youth activity or homelessness."

While Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell's administration said there has been a report of shots fired about one every two days in city encampments, only one of the 10 Memorial Day weekend shootings were reported to be at an encampment. A victim was never located. 

"I don’t think we need another shooting for us once again to talk about policies that need to change," Harrell said on Tuesday. 

His comment references a longer-term change rather than a short term. Harrell said he would like state lawmakers to give cities some ability to control guns. Currently, all gun legislation is a product of the Washington State Legislature and the US Congress.

"One of the things I want to accomplish during my first term is relief from that state exemption where I can't do something as simple as barring-- prohibiting-- guns on open spaces like a park. I'm prohibited from doing that. I'm prohibited from taking the firearm away from someone who is intoxicated. I think the cities should be able to do that--  we can take away someone's driver's license if they're intoxicated," Harrell explained at the end of a press conference on Tuesday that focused on the homelessness crisis. 

Harrell was asked about gun violence after the press conference wrapped up. 

Woodards also weighed in on her plan to combat the rising violence in her city. 

"We are adding additional patrols, we are going to hot spot areas already, so we are not waiting for that crime plan to be completed," Woodards said.

Woodards says Tacoma Police have 50 officer positions that are open, but at the current departure rate, the city may not put a dent into that number. On the other hand, Seattle has lost more than 400 officers since the beginning of 2020.

Diaz, Harrell and Wooodards are having to make public safety decisions with fewer officers they want, along with a public that is demanding the ability to walk down any street safely.