Councilmember Lewis sharpens focus on violent crime

Apr 14, 2022
Written by WR Communications

During a discussion about rising gun violence in Seattle, Councilmember Andrew Lewis realized that there were a few basic questions that he could not answer. He asked the Seattle Police Department to examine its data on who was doing the shooting and where.

The police’s data led Lewis to conclude that “It is blatantly evident that a significant amount of the city’s crime and disorder is attributable to conditions in homeless encampments.” In fact, the data showed that homeless encampments were the leading sites of shots-fired incidents, 18% of the citywide total.

It’s important to note that this data does not mean that people living in homeless encampments are doing the shooting. Often, they are the victims. Indeed, it is the sense of lawlessness that often envelopes encampments that seems to lead to the shootings.

This violence does not follow people as they move from encampments to housing. As Lewis noted:

There has never been a shooting in a tiny house village or on the premises of JustCARE,” the hotel-based shelter program launched by the Public Defenders Association that helps people move out of the encampments.

“These shootings occur out in the encampments . . . . But if you bring people into shelter, the disorder generally doesn’t follow. In the tiny house villages or JustCARE hotels, there’s security, community, management, counseling. I think out in the encampments it’s survival-based, and people just respond to the demands of their environment.”

At the close of his column regarding the relationship between gun violence and homeless encampments, The Seattle Times reporter, Danny Westneat, made a case for moving people from encampments to housing.