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'Homeless nexus' accounts for biggest increase in Seattle homicides

"We're seeing the violence centered on illegal encampments, where there’s a general sense of lawlessness that concentrates bad actors and concentrates narcotics in one area."

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Ari Hoffman Seattle WA
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Seattle marked a grim milestone this week as violent crime has resulted in 13 deaths, which accounts for half of the 26 homicides in King County in just the first three months of 2022, breaking a six-year-old record from 2016, when 12 of the 23 homicides in the county happened in the city.

Four of the murders this year were committed in a single week, March 17 to 24. 53 people were killed in the city in 2020, up by 20 from 2019. Assistant Chief Deanna Nollette, commander of SPD’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, told the Seattle Times, "We're not seeing it slow down at all."

Nollette added that "…the single biggest increase is in homicides with a homeless nexus," where the victim, suspect, or both are homeless or a killing will occur in a homeless encampment. According to Nollette, those cases account for 40 percent of the homicide unit’s case load.

"When I say 'homeless,' it’s a misnomer — it’s really narcotics activity, mental health issues and lawlessness. We're seeing the violence centered on illegal encampments, where there’s a general sense of lawlessness that concentrates bad actors and concentrates narcotics in one area," Nolette told the outlet.

Tragically illustrating the point is the killing of Arkan J. Al-Aboudy. On Thursday, March 17 at approximately 2:20 pm the 43-year-old was shot and killed in a tent encampment located in the 700 block of 10th Ave S. in Seattle. Al-Aboudy was not homeless. He was killed while looking for his brother Mike, who has been missing since March 1. Al-Aboudy had been shot in the back and later died from his injuries. He was a father to two daughters, ages 6 and 16 and lived with his girlfriend in Seattle.

Violence is common place in the sprawling encampments across the city.

According to data the Seattle Times collected from the law enforcement, King County prosecutors and Medical Examiner’s office, county wide there were 73 homicides in 2019, 116 in 2020 and 110 in 2021. In 2021, 88 people were fatally shot and 372 were wounded by gunfire in King County, exceeding 2020’s record high of 69 firearm-related homicides and 268 shooting injuries.

Complicating the situation is the ongoing staffing shortage in the Seattle Police Department. According to Fox 13, twenty officers left the force in January, 171 officers exited last year, and 186 officers separated from the force in 2020 following the push by the Seattle City Council to defund the police in the wake of the death of George Floyd and the ensuing riots that rocked the city. The city has so far been unable to recruit enough officers to fill the gap and is operating well below safe staffing levels for the city.

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