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Originally published May 26, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 26, 2007 at 2:02 AM

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Fight against gangs in Central Area intensifies

Seattle police and federal law enforcement spent the past eight months busting known gang members in neighborhoods near Capitol Hill, making...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Seattle police and federal law enforcement spent the past eight months busting known gang members in neighborhoods near Capitol Hill, making 47 arrests and confiscating 31 firearms.

On Friday, top brass from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the King County Sheriff's Office and Seattle Police Department talked about the task force they formed to investigate gang activity in the Central Area — a program called "Operation Clean Sweep." They also put on display the arsenal of handguns and semiautomatic weapons that they netted.

Assistant police chiefs Nick Metz and Harry Bailey said their efforts in the Central Area — specifically a three-mile territory near Miller Playfield, Judkins Park and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center — are far from finished.

"We're going to continue putting the pressure on," Metz said. Bailey added that there will be extra patrols there.

Authorities say gang activity is on the rise in Seattle and nearby communities in unincorporated King County. Drive-by shootings have become a regular occurrence in parts of South and Southeast Seattle.

Kelvin Crenshaw, special agent in charge of the Seattle ATF office, said almost all of the people arrested belonged to the same gang. He blames them for turning the area into an open-air drug market and for "dispensing crack cocaine like an ATM."

Crenshaw identified three men as the ringleaders: Paris Winston Stewart, 46; his son Paris Terral Stewart, 20; and Tyrone Jones, 35. They have all been charged in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and distribution of crack cocaine.

Metz said the department has received calls from Central Area residents who are afraid to leave their homes at night because of the guns and gangs.

Gene Rivers has lived in the Central Area for more than 50 years and said the violence he's seeing now is worse than it has ever been.

"This has got to stop. They [the criminals] are just too comfortable," he said.

Rivers, 62, said he often sees people using and selling drugs. He said his neighbors are afraid to walk to the store or even be alone in building hallways and stairwells.

"I think the Police Department is coming down a lot more," said Rivers, who lives near Miller Playfield. "They have been on patrol quite a bit."

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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