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King County leaders propose emergency funding for gun violence prevention initiative

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King County’s public health approach to ending gun violence aims to expand the Regional Peacekeepers Collective, which includes partnerships with community groups around the county including White Center and Skyway, under a new emergency budget proposal by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The emergency budget amendment, sponsored by King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, will include $1.47 million in investments for curbing gun violence through data-driven identification of the groups and neighborhoods at the highest risk of being involved in a shooting. The money will also go toward increased community engagement and increasing community staffing with employees to connect community members to services and support opportunities.

“Stopping the gun violence our community witnessed last weekend in the Central District, White Center and Pioneer Square requires more than just a criminal justice response — it requires the upstream, public health-based interventions we know can help unwind conflict and prevent future tragedies,” said Constantine.

In addition to the shooting in White Center that killed two people and wounded two more, another person was shot in the Central District over the weekend. A total of 69 people were shot in King County during the first quarter of 2021, the vast majority of whom are male and people of color. About 42% of the victims were between the ages of 18 and 24.

According to a press release from the county executive’s office, the proposed amendment to the omnibus budget includes:

• $768,000 for 10 additional violence interrupters, case managers and life coaches hired through community partners to develop trusting relationships with clients in White Center, Skyway, Burien, Kent and Central District.

• $100,000 for consultants to leverage the experience in Oakland to build problem analysis and provide other technical assistance such as identifying groups, neighborhoods and individuals at the very highest risk of being involved in a shooting.

• $374,000 to extend existing community contract positions to support violence interrupters, case managers and life coaches.

• $227,000 for additional staff capacity to launch and support the Regional Peacekeepers Collective.

The proposal would expand the work of the Regional Peacekeepers Collective, which has been leading gun violence prevention efforts by the county, including distributing free lockboxes in Skyway and Kent. The Peacekeepers work on the principles of intervention, prevention and restoration to stop violence help ensure wrap-around services and coordinated care.

“In what is shaping up to be a record breaking, heartbreaking year for gun violence in our country, interventions that place people and communities first are going to be integral to stop this pain,” said King County Councilmember McDermott. “And we know this pain too well here in King County, with the tragedy in White Center this past weekend still fresh and devastating for our community. From community violence to interpersonal violence, the Peacekeepers Collective can and will make a big impact once we deliver this support.”

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Cameron Sheppard

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Cameron Sheppard