King County Gun Violence Data - Crime Strategies Unit
A public health approach to understanding gun violence in King County
In 2013, the King County Executive adopted a public health approach to firearm violence aimed at developing evidence-based strategies to reduce preventable injuries and deaths. One of the key early findings by Public Health-Seattle & King County was a lack of essential data collection and sharing mechanisms around firearm violence. In 2016, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (“KCPAO”) partnered with Public Health and seven local law enforcement agencies on the “Shots Fired” project. A primary goal of this project – which was funded through a federal grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance - was the uniform collection and standardization of already existing data on illegal shootings in King County.
To accomplish this task, KCPAO created the Crime Strategies Unit (“CSU”) which is currently comprised of two deputy prosecuting attorneys and a crime analyst. Because perpetrators of firearm violence do not operate within the confines of any single law enforcement jurisdiction, CSU serves as a centralized hub for the collection and sharing of illegal shooting data throughout the County. While firearm homicides are generally known and tracked, nonfatal shootings and shootings not resulting in injury have not historically been tracked in a uniform manner. Not every agency routinely collects this data, and those that do have different definitions, coding mechanisms, and records management systems. As a result, the collection, cleaning, and standardization of this data by the CSU crime analyst is incredibly time and labor intensive.
Quarterly Gun Violence Data Reports
Today, we work with all 39 law enforcement agencies in King County to develop firearm violence reports (click on the links on the right side of this page to view all the reports).
These reports are the most comprehensive and consistent firearm violence analyses available in King County, and are published on a quarterly basis. The reports help inform prevention and intervention strategies designed to reach individuals the data suggests are most at risk of firearm violence victimization. While we will continue to prosecute the perpetrators of firearm violence, we recognize that a broader, public health approach is required to achieve lasting reductions of firearm violence.
Note: Each successive report presents the most accurate data available at the time they are released. Minor discrepancies may exist when comparing current and past data as a result of new information revealed from law enforcement investigations. For example, the total fatal shooting victim numbers from a previous year may include a shooting death that was later determined to be a death by suicide. In this hypothetical example, the number of actual fatal shootings from a past year that we are aware of today would be slightly lower than what was represented in the 2020 report.
A Public Health Approach to Gun Violence
In the context of illegal shootings, a public health approach addresses the questions of who is being shot; why are they being shot; and how can we prevent future shootings. Those are the questions that CSU has been working to answer and those which we hope to continue to work to address moving forward.
Who is being shot? After several years of working closely with law enforcement, we now have a much more meaningful understanding of what illegal shootings look like across King County, including: what types of shootings are happening; where and when are they happening; and who are the victims and perpetrators. Continued and ongoing collection of this data will allow us to examine trends over time and develop responses that are informed by the most recent and reliable data possible.
Why are they being shot? Research has consistently shown that firearm violence is intensely concentrated within small, identifiable social networks. Firearms violence spreads within these networks, meaning that the closer a person is to a victim of firearm violence, the more likely they are to be a victim of firearm violence themselves. Along with our law enforcement partners, CSU is using data to understand the networks of firearm violence in King County and to identify those individuals who are most at risk of victimization.
How can we prevent future shootings? There is nothing new about using data analytics to identify individuals in harm’s way. Working with law enforcement, public health and community partners, CSU is seeking to implement prevention and intervention programs that are designed to reach those individuals that the data indicate are most at risk of becoming gunshot victims. While we will continue to prosecute the perpetrators of illegal shootings, we recognize that a broader public health based approach is required to achieve lasting reductions of firearm violence.
Our office is partnering with several organizations in an effort to deploy community-based intervention and prevention responses to firearm violence. CHOOSE Freedom, a program in partnership with CHOOSE 180, utilizes our Shots Fired data to prioritize community engagement with those most at risk of firearm violence victimization between the ages of 18 -24. In addition, BRAVE, a program in partnership with Highline School District, the YMCA of Greater Seattle, and the City of Burien, prioritizes engagement with youth within the Highline School District who may be at risk of firearm violence victimization.
We would also like to extend a special thanks to the 39 law enforcement agencies in King County; their hard work to track local incidents of gun violence, and share that data with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, make these reports possible.