Do “Gun Assault” Data Inflate Seattle’s Gang Problem?


The pending trial in an apparent gang murder in Seattle gives local news media the opportunity “to paint a world of trouble on the basis of a single tragedy,” says The Stranger, a weekly newspaper. Local stories on gangs and violent crime often focus on one shocking statistic or incident without offering context or other examples. Larry Evans, who works for the Seattle office of neighborhoods, started gang-intervention programs in the early 1990s. He says press reports on gang violence reinforce stereotypes without offering much information. “There are some gang members in Seattle, some very serious ones,” he says. “We do have a problem. I just don’t necessarily trust the media to talk about it because they use these scare tactics.”

The Stranger cites a December 6 Seattle Post-Intelligencer story that linked the murder of a sheriff’s deputy to “resurging gun violence and gang activity plaguing Seattle.” Police say gun assaults have jumped 26 percent in the Seattle area, but officerss counted all aggravated assaults in which guns were “used, displayed, threatened, or implied.” In a sample of 203 of the cases from 2005, 72 cases involved someone actually getting shot. The Stranger says local newspapers don’t entirely miss the mark. In Seattle, violent crime has risen 1.8 percent over last year, reflecting a national trend.


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