Posted on January 5, 2012 at 12:04 AM
Thursday, Jan 5 at 12:04 AM
SEATTLE -- A South Seattle man who was the victim of a violent robbery reaches out to his neighbors and makes a startling discovery. A discovery that raises questions about whether Seattle's crime rate could be higher than statistics reveal in some parts of the city.
37-year-old Nhan Thai says he's committed to staying in the vibrant Rainier Valley neighborhood he's called home for five years.
"I'm not going to let what happened drive me out of here," said Thai.
But Thai's commitment is being tested daily.
"I think about dark spots, lights, noises, voices I hear. who walks where," said Thai.
Thai remembers the September night that changed how he sees his community. He was walking home from the the Othello light rail station
"I was literally ten steps away from the house. And I felt a hit on my right face and another hit on the back of my neck and on my lower back, and so as I was falling forward I felt hands grabbing my jacket and my bag," said Thai.
Two months later, not far from where Thai was attacked, another man was grabbed from behind, robbed and beaten. His name was Danny Vega, and he died.
"I was angry...when I heard about Danny Vega's story I was angry," said Thai.
The robberies continued and Thai found himself becoming someone he'd never expected--a community activist.
He kept hearing crime was down in Seattle--robberies had fallen three percent in 2011--but it sure didn't feel that way.
Thai started visiting his neighbors, they had a lot to say, and soon he realized he was doing his own crime survey.
Thai knocked on 49 doors. 32 people were home. How many of them had been victims of a crime since moving to the neighborhood? All but three.
Many victims told Thai they'd never reported the crimes to police.
"It happens to them so often that after 2 or 3 times they stopped reporting because they didn't see any progress," said Thai.
Thai's survey was clearly unscientific, but it does raise the question--is crime going unreported in the south end?
"I'm aware that this has been an issue...I don't think it's the rule. I think it's the exception," said Captain Mike Nolan of the Seattle Police Department.
Police are sending out emphasis patrols since the robberies. And they're regulars at the crime prevention meetings and so is Thai.
"I never feel hopeless in anything. You know, there's things that happen in our lives that we just have to deal with. And not doing anything--is not--it's not an option," said Thai.
Where some feel hopeless when they've been victimized, Thai feels energized.
"I've never felt hopeless. Doing nothing is not an option," said Thai.
Seattle Police say they are making progress. In just the past two weeks, they've arrested ten men, five of them juveniles, for robberies and burglaries in the south end.