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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Seattle Homicides At 48, Down From 71 In ‘94 Police Gang Unit Gets Partial Credit, And 30 To 40 ‘Guys In The Ground’ Have Had ‘Drastic Effect’

Associated Press

In spite of a grim finish, the number of homicides in Seattle in 1995 will be well below its record year of 1993 and police pressure on gang activity is seen as one of the reasons.

With a special unit shadowing gang associations day and night, and the deaths of many gang leaders, drive-by and retaliatory shootings have dropped.

Working in pairs, gang detectives make regular sweeps of neighborhoods, schools, parks and auto-detailing shops throughout Seattle. Gang members tend to identify strongly with their cars.

“We find out who they are, what they drive, who they sleep with, their street name and their gang associations,” detective Mike LeBlanc said. “There’s hundreds of people that we know.”

LeBlanc is part of the Seattle Police Department’s 25-member gang unit.

“They see us all the time. The gang unit is like the one constant thing in their lives,” said LeBlanc’s partner, detective Mike Devine.

While the activity is down, the number of gang deaths already recorded also may have some bearing on the decline.

“With 30 to 40 guys in the ground, it’s had a drastic effect,” LeBlanc said.

Gang unit Lt. Emett Kelsie said his detectives are part of a wider effort aimed at dealing with youth violence. That includes tougher juvenile gun laws, school anti-violence programs and increased community awareness.

“We’re addressing things earlier, more holistically, and not just prosecuting,” he said. “We’re identifying the people most active in the community as it relates to violence, and removing them.”

Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper warned that youth violence - and violence in general - could rise markedly by the turn of the century.

“We’re in for a shock when the babies of the baby boomers reach the point in their development when, to use jargon, they’re at risk,” he said. “Now’s the time to redouble our efforts and set good examples to our kids and drive home the message that any violence in any form won’t be tolerated.”“Other detectives, like in Tukwila, say Pacific Highway is as bad as they’ve ever seen it,” Devine said.

The fatal shooting of a 16-year-old boy Thursday morning brought the city’s homicide toll to 48 for 1995.

The shooting occurred in north Seattle shortly after 1 a.m., when the car in which the teen and four others were riding was fired on by occupants of a car behind it, police spokeswoman Christie-Lynne Bonner said. The shooting was not gang related, police said.

With less than a week to go, the 1995 total of 48 homicides in the city was down 32 percent from the 71 of 1994. A record 73 were recorded in 1993. Of the 48 homicides recorded, seven victims were teenagers or younger.

Domestic violence was behind 21 of the Seattle homicides. Five deaths were firmly tied to gang activity.

In Spokane, the 1995 total for homicides is a record-setting 23.