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Originally published Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 8:38 PM

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Seattle Police teams up with FBI, ATF in sweep of illegal firearms

More than five dozen illegal firearms, including 14 assault rifles, handguns and a weapon that was used to injure three people in a shooting outside a downtown nightclub earlier this year, have been taken off the streets during a series of law-enforcement operations in Seattle over the past few months, police said.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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More than five dozen illegal firearms, including 14 assault rifles, handguns and a weapon that was used to injure three people in a shooting outside a downtown nightclub earlier this year, have been taken off the streets during a series of law-enforcement operations in Seattle over the past few months, police said.

The operations, which included one completed Tuesday night, were jointly conducted by the Seattle Police Department, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

At a news conference on Wednesday, Mayor Mike McGinn, Police Chief John Diaz and officials of the two federal law-enforcement agencies stood in the media room at police headquarters waiting their turn to stand at the podium and decry gun violence.

"This is a great city," said Diaz. "It's a city that doesn't tolerate violence, and it's not going to tolerate this kind of gun violence."

"We are still working to understand the root causes of the rise in gun violence that we saw," said McGinn, "but we are getting guns off the street and also arresting criminals who illegally possess them and we believe that can make a difference."

McGinn had called for increased police patrols after a spike in homicides in the first months of the year. Thus far, there have been 12, compared with the city's usual average of one per month, police said.

McGinn emphasized the importance of the joint operations, saying, "When we partner with the FBI and the ATF, we can share intelligence, target operations and we also bring enhanced penalties and criminal prosecutions to bear, which really make a difference."

The Police Department's partnership with a federal agency was highlighted last month during the final stage of a fencing sting that netted 102 suspects and 900 stolen objects.

"We've stood here before you as a team twice," said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Steven Dean. "And so I tell the bad guys: 'Get used to it 'cause we're coming again and we're coming as a team.' "

ATF Special Agent-in-Charge Kelvin Crenshaw also applauded the joint effort. "A significant number of illegal guns are now off our streets and the thugs peddling them are securely behind bars," he said.

Diaz acknowledged that highlighting the successful operations is also part of an effort to counter the negative publicity resulting from a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found that Seattle police use unconstitutionally excessive force in one in every five instances when force is used.

The investigation was prompted by a series of high-profile clashes between citizens and police, including the fatal August 2010 shooting of First Nations woodcarver John T. Williams.

The city and Department of Justice are now negotiating a possible court-monitored decree to ensure that proposed Police Department changes are carried out.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

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