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13 South Seattle home invasions targeted elderly Asian Americans, police say

caption: Homes are shown in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle in July of 2020.
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Homes are shown in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Seattle in July of 2020.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Robbers have been forcing their way into the homes of residents living in South Seattle in recent months, leading city leaders and police officials to address the spree. Police said some victims have been pistol whipped.

There have been 14 incidents reported to police since June in several neighborhoods in the following zip codes: 98108; 98118; 98144; 98178.

Elderly people of Asian descent have been targeted in all but one of these incidents, police said Tuesday during a press conference.

"They're going after people they think are easy targets," said John O'Neil, police spokesperson.

Although police said it appears they're targeting Asian Americans, police said it doesn't amount to a hate crime.

Police described the suspects as working in groups ranging in size from three to seven people carrying guns who either rob people outside their homes or force their way inside to steal money and valuables. In one instance, a 10-year-old was led through a house at gunpoint while the family was robbed.

This pattern has emerged before. In 2016, detectives investigated several cases in which Asian American families in the Beacon Hill area were targeted. At the time Seattle Police wrote that in each of these cases, the suspects targeted households that had large amounts of cash on-hand.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell spoke on the recent increase of robberies on Monday.

“It’s just unacceptable,” he told KUOW.

Harrell said he’s recruiting police officers everywhere he goes, alluding to the ongoing staffing shortage within the Seattle Police Department. The department has a goal of recruiting 125 officers a year, a target which Harrell hopes they’re on track to reach this year.

“I hope that our City Council understands the need for strong public safety in all these areas as well,” Harrell said.

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