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Seattle police report rise in crimes targeting Asian-Americans since start of COVID-19 pandemic

Activists say fears about coronavirus are fueling anti-Asian racism. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best says bias crimes need to be reported.

SEATTLE — Seattle police department's Bias Crime Unit is investigating crimes targeting Asian Americans.

Police are working to identify a suspect in a May 16 incident. It happened at 4:15 p.m. near 3rd Avenue and Steward Street in Seattle. A couple was walking on the sidewalk, when surveillance video shows what appears to be a sudden attack. The suspect shoved the male victim, knocking off his glasses and his mask. Police report that he was also spat on, and the suspect allegedly told the couple, "it's all your fault."

"If you can imagine having someone spit in your face. How awful that would be. That was very egregious," said Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best.

Investigators are seeking tips on that case and following up on leads.

Back in February, Asian Counseling and Referral Service issued a joint statement, drawing attention to "an alarming increase in bias and harassment against our Asian American communities."

Chief Best confirms they have seen a rise in reports.

"Since March, when we first came under this COVID-19 pandemic, we've had nine incidents that we tracked that were targeted toward the Asian community," said Best.

RELATED: Can you help Seattle police identify man involved in racial bias assault?

Chief Best encourages victims of bias crime to report it. 

"Really, calling 911 is the best and most effective way to get an immediate response," said Best.

However, Kert Lin says when he reported racial slurs shouted at him during a recent outing in Seattle, he was not satisfied with the officer's response.

"He said it sounds like there was no crime. It sounds like this man was exercising his first amendment rights," said Lin during an interview on Sunday.

He later received a phone call from Chief Best.

"I wanted him to know that we were following up. A detective was involved and engaged, and the officer actually did go back and take a report that day once a supervisor was alerted, so I feel like the system worked as it should," said Best.

This month, the California-based Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, said in 6-weeks time they've received over 1700 reports of coronavirus discrimination from Asian Americans across the country.

"This is racism, and people are targeted and they do feel victimized. And we have a history of taking those reports and documenting them," said Best.

RELATED: Asian Americans use social media to mobilize against attacks