Offenders only part of problem in South King County gun crimes

KING 5's Elisa Hahn reports on what police agencies are doing about rising youth gun violence in South King County.

Police agencies are trying to figure out what to do about the rise in youth gun violence in South King County. Along with federal authorities, they conducted a sweep called "Operation Quiet Night," and netted 26 arrests of violent gun offenders last week.

"We are seeing violence right now at unprecedented levels," said Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas.

Thomas pointed to one case in March, where a bus driver with 62 elementary school kids pulled up to a stop at West Meeker Street and 64th Avenue South. Two teenage suspects standing on the street started arguing with the driver.

"At one point pulled at this firearm that was fully loaded with an additional 30 round magazine and threatened the bus driver," said Thomas, pulling out a MAC-10 machine gun from an evidence box.

Police arrested the 15- and 16-year-old suspects with the gun still on them. Both already served detention and are back out on the street.

It's a scenario police see all too often. Gangs encourage kids to commit crimes knowing they'll face little punishment.

"On one hand, we're saying we don't want to have juveniles detained and in custody, but we don't have an alternative set up yet," said Thomas. "So what happens is we have continued violence with no accountability."

The spate of violence in South King County for 2017 includes 16 gun-related homicides, 48 shootings with injuries, and hundreds of "shots fired" cases.

The team of law enforcement agencies said they arrested 26 gun offenders last week in "Operation Quiet Night," seven of them juveniles. Five have already been released.

Sheriff John Urquhart said regardless of the time behind bars, their message is still the same.

"If you have guns you're going to go to jail. If you're an adult, you're going to jail. And if you are juvenile, you're going to juvey. You may not stay too long, and that's a shame, but that's what we're going to do," Urquhart said.

Police said the MAC-10 in the Kent case was stolen from a house in Pierce County, reminding gun owners they have a responsibility too.

"These guns are stolen," Urquhart said. "They're stolen from houses where people do not lock up their guns, and people are dying because of that."

© 2017 KING-TV


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