Gang violence is on the rise throughout the Seattle area, a phenomenon mirrored in regions across the nation, says the Seattle Times. The number of cases investigated by the Seattle police gang unit has eclipsed the number from all of last year. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 101 cases were referred to the unit, up from 94 in all of 2005. The numbers don’t include suspected gang cases handled by homicide and narcotics units. Police and gang experts say a combination of factors seems to be fueling the escalation in gang crime: increasing criminal sophistication, demand for drugs, demographics, migration patterns, and generational conflicts.
The state Attorney General’s Office is conducting a statewide survey to better understand the extent of gang-related crime; federal agents are compiling a database of gang members; and state and federal prosecutors are working together to ensure that the most violent offenders spend significant time behind bars. “I don’t want to say gangs are running wild in the city, but I don’t want to close an eye” to the issue either, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said. Seattle police estimate there are 30 to 60 street gangs operating in the city and its suburbs. Though crack cocaine has long been Seattle gangs’ big moneymaker, heroin, crystal meth, marijuana, and prescription narcotics are increasingly being peddled on the streets. Said one officer: “It’s all the vices – prostitution, gambling, check fraud, identity thefts, computer crimes. They’re getting much more sophisticated.”