They might not have the same Guardian Angel roots, but the Q-Safety Patrol is back on Capitol Hill.
On Wednesday night, around 20 people gathered inside Dr. Jen’s House of Beauty on E Pike for the first meeting to resurrect the once prominent citizen safety brigade aimed at preventing gay-bashings and violence in Seattle’s gay neighborhoods. UPDATE: The group has also adopted a new name: OutWatch.
Dr. Jen’s owner Jennifer Dietrich, who was not a member of the original group, told CHS she decided to organize the meeting after a spate of violent attacks in the neighborhood, including a rape and an assault of a drag performer.
“I just stopped and said ‘this is not cool, that we can’t walk around our own neighborhood.’ We need to do something,” she said.
Dietrich said she hopes to have patrols rolled out as early as next week, using Dr. Jen’s as a home base. The plan is for members to walk Capitol Hill beats from 10 PM – 3 AM in groups of four, wear OutWatch shirts, and carry mace. Dietrich said she wants all members to receive some self defense training, but that having a public presence will be the most important deterrent to would-be criminals.
“We’re not a roaming pack of vigilantes,” she said. “It’s important that we report crimes to the police.”
The group also discussed opening a phone line and social media channels so a “dispatcher” could help direct patrol actions.
For now, those interested in joining can stop into Dr. Jen’s or contact Dietrich directly.
A Dr. Jen’s employee, who asked to remain anonymous, said while she hoped the patrol would have an open and allied relationship with SPD, many in the LGBTQ community still felt unsafe around police. She said aggressive tactics used by police to disperse late-night revelers during the 2012 Pride Festival were still fresh on many people’s minds, prompting several people to join Wednesday night’s meeting. “We got it handed to us that night,” she said.
The original Q-Safety Patrol was formed in 1991 in response to a rash of gay bashings that organizers felt police were unwilling or incapable of preventing. The original group was trained by the New York City-based Guardian Angels and adopted their signature berets.
In 1996 an up-and-coming Lt. Jim Pugel, then running the East Precinct’s community policing team, gave credit to the group for drastically reducing reported hate crimes in the city. Precinct leaders more recently have been less keen on the idea saying that the patrols could put un-trained citizens at risk and spark confrontations.
According to data obtained by CHS, the King County Prosecutor’s office has filed 6 malicious harassment cases this year, putting the county on track for a rise in hate crime cases over recent years:
- 2013: 9
- 2012: 9
- 2011: 7
- 2010: 16
- 2009: 11
During the 2010 spike in hate crimes, there were rumblings of a Q-Patrol revival. The most recent interest in bringing back Q-Patrol comes amid several reported LGBTQ-targeted incidents on Capitol Hill.
Drag performer Ade Connere told a reporter earlier this month that he was attacked for being in drag while walking near 13th and E Cherry. He said he didn’t report the crime to police because his last experience reporting a bashing to police “was more traumatic than the attack.”
Hernan Sarellana is charged in a July gay bashing where he allegedly asked a group if they were “faggots” then punched one on a Capitol Hill street-corner. Sarellana, 33, was charged with malicious harassment stemming from the incident that sent the victim to the emergency room with a head wound and seizure. Sarellena is out currently out on bail while his case moves through the courts.
Another Capitol Hill hate crime case is moving forward. Larry Figueroa was charged with malicious harassment and remains jailed on $15,000 bail following his arrest for a February attack on a man near Boylston and E Pine’s R Place. Prosecutors say the 51-year-old hit his victim and used an anti-gay slur in the incident at the 1500 block of Boylston Ave
The court proceedings for accused Neighbours arsonist Musab Musmari continue following the 30-year-old’s plea of not guilty to a charge of first degree arson. No hate crimes have been filed in the case.
Here’s how state statute defines felony malicious harassment:
(1) A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because of his or her perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap:
(a) Causes physical injury to the victim or another person;
(b) Causes physical damage to or destruction of the property of the victim or another person; or
(c) Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property.
Words alone do not constitute malicious harassment unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words indicate the words are a threat. Threatening words do not constitute malicious harassment if it is apparent to the victim that the person does not have the ability to carry out the threat.
The city also has a misdemeanor felony harassment law that mimics the state law.
Mayor Ed Murray, a longtime Capitol Hill resident and Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, has voiced concerns about a perceived increase in crimes that target gay people.
Earlier this month CHS sat down with new East Precinct Captain Pierre Davis to talk, among other things, about the perceived uptick in violence aimed at the LGBTQ community. Davis said part of SPD’s strategy is to track repeat offenders, note when they come in and out of jail, and watch for crimes that match their known M.O. He also said he was committed to rolling out foot patrols in the neighborhood this year.