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Police say rise of robberies, home invasions in south Seattle target elderly Asian community members

There have been 14 reported incidents since June, though police believe there may be more that went unreported.

SEATTLE — Seattle police are warning of an increase in robberies in south end areas of the city, mostly targeting elderly members of the Asian community.

There have been 14 reported incidents since June, though police believe there may be more that went unreported. Of those incidents, 13 involved the elderly Asian community, said Seattle Police Department Detective Judinna Gulpan in a Tuesday press conference.

Most of these incidents involve the suspects accosting victims outside of their homes or even forcing their way inside of victim's homes, Gulpan said, adding that victims are often assaulted at gunpoint. 

Areas in the following zip codes have seen an uptick in robberies:

  • 98108 (South Seattle, Beacon Hill, South Park)
  • 98118 (Columbia City, Rainier Valley, Hillman City, South Beacon Hill)
  • 98144 (Atlantic, Judkins Park, North Beacon Hill, Mount Baker, Leschi)
  • 98178 (Rainier View, Lakeridge, Bryn Mawr-Skyway, Allentown)

According to police, the suspects have typically been a group of three to seven armed teenage males who have "accosted victims outside of their homes," forcing entry into their residences. During these robberies, the victims were assaulted or held at gunpoint.

Police cannot yet say if the robberies are gang-related as they are still under investigation. 

"The victims are either assaulted, pistol whipped and sometimes held at gunpoint, while items of value are stolen from these victims' homes," said Gulpan.

According to police, eight of the robberies have occurred in August. 

“Any time crime is happening and is a pattern, we’re going to take it seriously and we’re going to consider it an emergency and react accordingly,” said Lt. John O'Neil on Tuesday. He said SPD will be connecting with Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members and releasing safety alerts in different languages. 

Even with a shortage of 600 officers, O'Neil said, the department is working to be active in the impacted areas and show a police presence to deter crime. 

“I'm concerned because I have aunts and uncles who live in Beacon Hill who live in all the areas where this has been happening,” said Tanya Woo, Seattle City Council District 2 candidate. “I'm shocked. I'm concerned, I'm angry. It's our most vulnerable community members who are being attacked or being targeted. It's scary.”

Woo agreed with police that these were not hate crimes but said information about these crimes should have been sent out sooner.

“This should have been taken care of a couple of months ago, back in June, when it first started happening, the word should have gone out to families and to neighbors to spread the word,” Woo said.

SPD and Woo believe there could be more victims out there.

“With that language barrier in place, it's very hard to report and some people don't want to create waves and think it's bad luck so they will not report and so I felt like the number is far greater than what is reported,” Woo said.

SPD is working to put information out in different languages and Woo said there needs to be a better partnership with community organizations and police to help people feel more comfortable to come forward.

KING 5 reached out to Councilmember and District 2 candidate Tammy Morales and has not heard back

Seattle Police Department's Robbery Unit is asking those living within the previously mentioned zip codes to review security footage for anything that could help with their investigations. They also asked people to report any incidents or suspicious activity. Anyone with information is asked to call 206-233-5000.

"Report the incident to us, just so that we can hold those accountable that have been creating these public safety issues in our neighborhoods," said Detective Gulpan. 

Seattle police are also offering the following safety tips:

  • Make safety your number one priority
  • Be observant and remain alert – trust your instincts
  • Be aware of your surroundings – call 911 when you observe suspicious activity
  • Communication with friends and family on who will be home and at what time
  • Security devices and or sounding alarms – potentially located at doors, windows, and garages
  • Option of video surveillance system
  • Motion sensor lighting for entrances, exits, and parking areas
  • Avoid keeping large amounts of cash within your home
  • Participate in your local neighborhood watch
  • Contact your local precinct Crime Prevention Coordinator for questions on security and prevention tips for crime in your area

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