Community asked to step up to prevent violence
While city officials deal with several shootings in Seattle over the past week, youth-violence-prevention workers are trying to reach out to young people on a personal level.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A four-day stretch of gun violence in Seattle is already prompting official response, as police increase patrols in high-crime areas and prepare to address the Seattle City Council on Tuesday.
On Monday, local record producer Reco Bembry was taking a more personal approach at the Garfield Teen Life Center, one kid at a time.
"They're your teenagers. It's personal," he said as a video about hip-hop culture played in the gymnasium. He pointed across the room at a teenager in a ball cap. "That young man is either gonna be the man who saves your daughter's life, or knocks her upside the head. It's very personal."
On Thursday, Justin Ferrari was killed at random by a gunshot while he was driving through a busy Central Area intersection with his children and parents.
On Saturday evening, a bystander was hit in a shooting at Seattle Center, and early Sunday, four South Seattle homes were hit in drive-by shootings.
A police spokeswoman said Monday that no one in the department with knowledge of the ongoing investigations was available for an interview because of the Memorial Day holiday.
She said she did not know exactly what police will present to the City Council but said department officials would be available afterward to answer questions about the shootings.
Meanwhile, as the streak of violence concerned many across the city, police officers and youth-violence-prevention officers at the Monday event said they hoped to seize the moment to talk about how the community can prevent more violence.
Mayor Mike McGinn said as much in a Sunday interview, stressing that police can do only so much.
He appealed for help from the community in both solving the crimes and preventing new ones. More than half of Seattle's slayings this year have been solved, and each arrest serves as a deterrent, McGinn said. "We need the public's help if they have information about any of the open cases."
Community members also can play a powerful role in discouraging violence, he added: "It's clear there is a culture in which young men believe it's appropriate to go out with a gun and use it. That person has friends and relatives. They need to let them know: It's not OK."
Events like the one Monday can raise leaders who can change the culture among youth, said Jeron Gates, a youth-violence-prevention coordinator with Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. "We're not reaching the people who are causing the violence. Are they here today? They are not," Gates said.
Early hip-hop artist Kurtis Blow on Monday led a discussion about youth violence that he centered on video clips about hip-hop in the 1980s and '90s. The event drew about a half-dozen teenagers, a handful of people who work in youth-violence prevention, and some community members and police officers.
Reporters nearly outnumbered teenagers, who shrugged when asked about peer pressure and talked of the importance of education and good role models in their families. But they also said that rap music with violence is all over their iPods.
Young people are "being largely influenced by a culture that doesn't give a damn about anybody," said Nicholas Russ, 31, of West Seattle, who attended the event. "There's a lack of respect for everyone."
That's why Bembry says it starts face to face, one kid at a time. He plans to work with the Parks Department to host a conversation every month for the next six months, even when reporters stop showing up and the community's focus shifts.
"It's just about people stepping up," he said.
Staff reporter Sandi Doughton contributed to this report. Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.