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Originally published March 3, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 3, 2009 at 5:19 PM

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Gang membership up in Seattle, FBI says

The FBI estimated in March 2008 that 10,000 gang members and associates are operating in King County and pose a "high" level of threat.

Seattle Times staff reporters Steve Miletich and Bob Young

The FBI estimated in March 2008 that 10,000 gang members and associates are operating in King County and pose a "high" level of threat. According to a Seattle police report written last year, "in some areas of the city people are crippled by fear of gangs and are afraid to walk in their own neighborhood."

Information culled from documents obtained by The Seattle Times through public-disclosure requests include other gang-related findings:

• The FBI reports that gang membership "significantly" increased in the past year, with an estimated 4,355 active members in Seattle.

• County and city officials say reasons for increased gang violence include older gangsters coming out of prison, fights over drug territory and retaliation between gang members.

• There were 136 gang-related gun crimes in Seattle last year; 70 cases have been cleared with arrests.

• Six Seattle teens were killed in suspected gang violence last year. In 2007, no teens were slain in Seattle. In 2004-2006, five teens were homicide victims, but none were killed in gang conflicts.

• Juveniles committed 25 percent of all robberies in Seattle in 2007; a 2005 study showed 25 percent of assaults with firearms involved juveniles as suspects or victims.

• Peak recruitment for gang membership occurs between fifth and eighth grades.

• Primary factors that predict gang membership for teens are academic failure, low commitment to school, persistent anti-social behavior and associating with peers who engage in problem behavior.

• Recent data show an increase in key predictive factors: 2,929 Seattle Public Schools students were considered truant during the 2006-07 academic year, a 15 percent increase from the previous year.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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