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Removing the Lines


Removing the Lines

June 2017

The most solemn job a mayor has is to ensure the safety of the public they serve. This is a responsibility I take seriously and after 19 years as a prosecutor, working in the criminal justice system, I know firsthand the challenges and complexities that may arise when crime and quality of life issues challenge our community.

As your Mayor, I am inspired by the character of our people. Federal Way is a growing and wonderfully diverse community. With growth, however, come challenges. It is some of those challenges I would like to talk about with you today.

On April 11, at around 4:30 PM, I received a phone call from Chief of Police Andy Hwang. There had been a shooting at the intersection of Dash Point Road and Pacific Highway South. The victim was believed to be deceased. Details were still unfolding, but it appeared to be a targeted shooting as the young man got off a Metro bus heading southbound on Pacific Highway. My immediate concern was for the residents in the area, the ballfields at Sacajawea Middle School, and the thousands of cars that had to drive by the terrible scene during rush hour. This was a brazen act and certainly different in terms of time of day from what we have seen in the past.

As I arrived on the scene and received a briefing, it was evident that the gang violence which has been on the rise in our region, particularly in South King County, was now spilling into Federal Way.

As the victim laid there covered with a sheet, I reflected on how fragile life is and how a few mistakes can lead to such an awful thing happening.

Gangs do not abide by municipal boundaries and have no respect for our community or the laws of our state. This young 19-year-old man was gunned down in broad daylight over a seemingly petty dispute involving alleged disrespect. Since late 2016, we have seen a gang war erupt over graffiti being crossed out in south Seattle. As miniscule as that act may seem, these murderers have sought a permanent solution to a temporary insult.

As I mentioned earlier in this memo, these issues tend to be complex. One of the barriers to combating the rise in gang violence stemmed from lack of a coordinated response between municipalities. Seattle, as one large agency, has an advantage in information sharing between its individualized units within its police department. This is a useful and necessary tool.

In partnership with Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke, a meeting of South King County Mayors, City Managers, Police Chiefs, and senior staff was called. King County Sheriff John Urquhart attended, as well as representatives from the Seattle Police Department. We met at Federal Way City Hall in a sobering, closed-door intelligence briefing on this growing regional problem.

To immediately and directly address gang violence, the Valley Narcotics Task Force has been re-tasked as the Valley Enforcement of Gangs and Narcotics Task Force (VEGAN). VEGAN will be supported by the ATF (Alcohol-Tobacco-Firearms), King County Sheriff’s Office, Seattle PD, and municipalities from South King County.

In order to reduce the challenges of information sharing and intelligence gathering, Police Chiefs from across South King County will meet on a weekly basis to coordinate our efforts to end this scourge on our communities.

In Federal Way, we have increased patrols and officers to confront violent crime. My budget has called for an increase of 9 officers to our police force. This will bring our total to 140 officers, which meets the recommended 1.4 officers per 1,000 residents. We will begin hiring new officers later this year and I look forward to ongoing discussions with the City Council to find ways to meet the demand of our residents as our population continues to grow.

These refocused efforts will help level the playing field, but there is more work to be done.

Last year, I tasked the Violence Prevention Coalition Steering Committee (VPCSC) with studying the root causes of violent crime in our community. This important committee recently presented our city with a list of community-based solutions to consider in addressing crime. I am pleased with the report they produced and would like to thank the members of the VPCSC for their dedicated work and recommendations.                                                       

The recommendations are working their way through the Public Safety Committee as cost of implementation is considered. I am confident the City Council will fully weigh each recommendation and select those to implement soon.

Crime affects us all, and tears at the very fabric of our community. My administration will continue to address gang violence and give our police and community the tools they need to be successful and maintain the safety of the city we all love. 

Mayor Jim Ferrell