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Anti-Asian hate crimes on rise in Seattle area, police say

caption: Hing Hay Park in Seattle's International District, where Soundside host Libby Denkmann met with Maiko Winkler-Chin.
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Hing Hay Park in Seattle's International District, where Soundside host Libby Denkmann met with Maiko Winkler-Chin.

Seattle police are noting a rising trend in hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans, echoing similar observations from across the region, and the nation.

The Seattle Police Department documented six anti-Asian hate crimes in 2018. In 2019, the number was nine. There were 14 reported in Seattle in 2020.

This echoes reports from the King County Prosecutor's Office this week, covering hate crime cases from across the county. The prosecutor's office charged 30 hate crime cases in 2018, and 39 in 2019. In 2020, however, that number shot up to 59 cases. So far in 2021, the office has charged seven cases.

“There was a 20-case increase (between 2019 and 2020)," said Leandra Craft, King County deputy prosecutor, at a virtual press conference this week. She said the uptick is partly because a detective is dedicated to hate crimes. But that's not the only reason.

"Unfortunately, I will say there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in hate crimes against Asian-Americans," Craft said, noting that there was a case in 2020 involving an assault on an Asian-American in Seattle with Covid-19 as part of the motivation.

Craft said that in hate crime cases filed in King County, mental health and substance abuse are factors. Prosecutors try to defer some of these misdemeanor cases to mental health court.

On Friday, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz issued a statement confirming that there has been a rise in reported hate crimes across the city.

"The Seattle Police Department has heard from residents, business owners, and community organizations across the Chinatown-International District and throughout our city. People are particularly fearful about an increase in crimes targeting the Asian community."

"We recently arrested a subject in a recent incident and continue to pursue leads in other cases," he said.

Seattle police report they have arrested a 41-year-old man for an assault in the Chinatown-International District on February 25. The News Tribune reports that man, Sean Holdip, allegedly used a sock filled with a hard object to strike an Asian woman, a high school teacher, and her boyfriend. The woman suffered injuries to her face and was hospitalized at Harborview Medical Center. The boyfriend required eight stitches on his head. Holdip faces two assault charges.

It was the latest in a string of incidents that have made headlines. Locally, in Renton, a woman reportedly threw a snowball at a young Asian man while yelling slurs in February.

It's also part of a national trend of assaults against Asian-Americans; on the elderly in many cases. Voice of America recently reported that "There were 122 incidents of anti-Asian American hate crimes in 16 of the country’s most populous cities in 2020, an increase of almost 150% over the previous year."

The group Stop AAPI Hate also recently reported that it collected reports between March 19 and December 31 of 2020, showing "2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from 47 states and the District of Columbia." A total of 126 of those reports involved elderly victims (7.3%). It's reports also state that 8.7% of incidents involved assaults and 71% were for verbal harassment.

Also from Stop AAPI Hate's report: 8% of incidents involved workplace discrimination or refusal of service; and businesses were the main places of discrimination (38%).

On Friday, Seattle Police Chief Diaz released a video statement addressing the local rise in anti-Asian assaults.

Seattle has a detective assigned to investigate hate crimes full time. Chief Diaz notes that the department is close to hiring a liaison for the Chinatown-International District.

SPD notes that the Chinatown-International District was previously targeted by white nationalists in April 2020, who left "jingoistic stickers" on businesses throughout the neighborhood.

KOMO reports that there is a rally against anti-Asian violence scheduled for Seattle's Hing Hay Park on Saturday, March 13. Additional rallies across King County are expected after that.

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