Reducing Gun Violence in the Central District and citywide

Dear Friends,

My staff and I send our deepest condolences to the family of Royale Lexing, the young black man who tragically lost his life to recent gun violence. We stand with Seattle’s black community in mourning this huge loss, and with all community members who want to end gun violence.

My husband and I hear the gunshots where we live in the Central District-Leschi neighborhood also, and one of the recent shootings took place just two blocks from our house. I personally understand and share the anxiety of my neighbors, and desire for safe neighborhoods for our families, especially for our children.

We need common sense gun control measures, like banning semi-automatic weapons, to prevent gun violence incidents like the one that happened at 28th and Jackson in the Central District on Friday night.

Several Central District residents also reached out to my office with proposals for concrete changes to public space usage and vehicular traffic at 21st Avenue, where there have been three drive-by shootings during the current school year. They believe could have a positive impact, and help reduce the incidences of drive-by shootings.

So I urgently invited the community members to present their ideas to the May 14th Human Services, Equitable Development, and Renters Rights committee of the City Council, which I chair. The community members explained how they have been trying over a prolonged period to get the attention of the Mayor’s Office and the City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). Following my committee, the Mayor’s staff and SDOT have responded, and since toured the 21st Avenue neighborhood earlier this week, along with Adam Ziemkowski from my office.

Some community members have asked, wouldn’t increasing police patrols, or including the Central District in “emphasis patrols,” help? The Central District has been one of the major areas already designated for summer emphasis patrols. And yet, the fact remains that the recent gun violence was not prevented despite the emphasis patrols.

Decades of statistical evidence demonstrates that we will not be able to police our way out of this crisis, because it is fundamentally rooted in the ills of a broken system, namely, capitalism. Seattle is spending more than ever before on increased policing – $400 million per year. The U.S. has the highest prison rates in the world, with 724 people per 100,000 incarcerated.

For violence to stop, the overarching problems in society need to be addressed. Statistically speaking, as nationwide studies have systematically shown, reducing inequality has the greatest impact on reducing violence and crime, and improving public safety for working people.

In Seattle, this means we need bold policies to solve the escalating affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Seattle needs rent control to stem the skyrocketing of rents. We need to tax Amazon and other big businesses to fund a massive expansion of social housing (publicly-owned affordable housing), and to fully fund public transit and social services.

To fight the alienation faced by our young people, we also need to tax the rich to fully fund public schools and youth jobs programs. We know that youth violence plummets when young people have the right to high-quality public education, fully-equipped schools with access to art opportunities, after-school programs, counselors, libraries, and internet access.

My office, alongside the People’s Budget movement, has successfully won millions for the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, and CareerBridge, which rehabilitates formerly incarcerated people into jobs and housing, and reduces recidivism. We also won funding for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program. All of these programs have a proven track record of working well. But these programs continue to be nickel-and-dimed by the political establishment. And we need serious funding to address the opioid and mental health crisis in our society.

Feel free to contact my office! And please join our movement to fight for rent control in our city!



Councilmember Kshama Sawant, District 3

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant

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