By Mahlon Meyer
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
An Asian man walks up to his door. Behind him, run up two men all in black. One of them brandishes a pistol. “Come on, give me everything you got,” says the first robber. The second one, advancing, shoots the Asian man with a taser. As they try to remove his ring, the fallen Asian man wheezes and groans.
Such a scenario—or worse—has happened at least 14 times (and probably much more) since the beginning of June.
According to the Seattle Police Department (SPD), a group of teenage Black men in the neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Tukwila, and other parts of South Seattle has been following mostly Asian American people home, then forcing them to give up valuables like jewelry and cash.
“It’s a pattern robbery,” said Shawn Weismiller, a public affairs officer for the SPD.
This means the crimes have conformed to a pattern in multiple aspects.
They have occurred in the same areas, been perpetrated by the same people, have targeted Asian Americans, and in many cases, the robbers have been seen driving a KIA or Hyundai vehicle.
In a video circulating on social media, the robbers are said to have followed the victim from the Ba Mien market.
In other cases, robbers have broken down doors, or forced individuals to open their doors, then assaulted them.
“During these reported incidents, the victims were assaulted, pistol whipped, or held at gunpoint, while items of value and cash were stolen,” according to the Seattle Police blotter.
In one case, recounted by the police to Tanya Woo, candidate for Seattle City Council, a robber held a gun to the head of a child, forcing him to lead them to the family’s valuables.
Crimes of opportunity?
According to Woo, the robbers know that Chinese and other Asian families keep cash and valuables at home—rather than trusting it to a bank.
“Some Chinese families don’t believe in banks. They keep all cash in the home. It’s a crime of opportunity—not hate or bias,” she said.
Woo has run a neighborhood patrol for four years in the Chinatown-International District, where she and her fellow volunteers have defused violent situations and monitored criminal activity.
“How do we educate people not to keep cash or valuables in their homes? That’s why people are targeting Asians,” she said.
The SPD says that to avoid such crimes, proper steps should be followed.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Make sure you are not being followed.
Make sure you’re aware of your daily patterns.
“If someone’s targeting you, they’re going to learn about your daily patterns,” said Weismiller.
Some of the steps an individual or families can take are:
- 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
Organizing a block watch by contacting your neighborhood precinct commander is another step.
“It’s about building community,” said Weismiller.
Call 911 even if you don’t speak English
What makes it more difficult for the current batch of victims is that many do not speak English well, if at all.
The SPD has employed its language line—an interpreting service offered by phone—to communicate in cases where an interpreter was not available on scene.
Making sure everyone is safe is the first priority, said Weismiller.
One problem, however, is that some senior citizens who don’t speak English have resorted to calling neighbors or friends who speak their language—rather than 911.
“Our advice is to call 911 to get police en route as quickly as possible,” said Weismiller.
Operators for 911 “have immediate access” to interpreters, according to the SPD’s Deaf and Language Services.
“The 911 call taker will connect you to a language interpreter and will coordinate their assistance.”
Woo said that language barriers, however, have slowed people making reports.
She stressed how important it is to heighten vigilance.
“It’s frustrating that these robberies have been happening to so many families and we haven’t been able to get the word out. Imagine if it were your own parents or auntie or uncle. We need to work together to get the word out,” she said.
SPD asks for public help
The SPD has asked for the help of the public in reporting robberies and providing any related information.
“The SPD’s Robbery Unit asks these communities to review your home security systems for any potential video footage that may assist with our ongoing investigations in identifying these suspects,” according to the blotter. “In addition, if anyone has information, please call the Violent Crimes Tip Line at (206) 233-5000. More importantly, if you observe any suspicious activity needing a police response, please CALL 911.”
For more information about the robberies, go to:
For more information about preventing home invasion, go to:
How to access an interpreter when calling 911
In order to access an interpreter when you call 911:
- Call 911 and in English, state that this is an emergency (either fire or medical) and what language (or dialect) you speak.
- The Call Taker will conference the call with an interpreter.
- Let the Call Taker control the conversation and the interpreter to translate the language.
- If possible, tell the Call Taker as soon as possible if your emergency is police, fire, or emergency medical.
Mahlon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.