Responding to a letter first reported by CHS, representatives of Seattle’s Somali and East African communities have called on Mayor Ed Murray for “a [thorough] investigation” of a rash of robberies and street crime in the Pike/Pine neighborhood and asked the mayor to consider more than “the voice of just one group of citizens.”
“We hereby express our strong belief that these crimes are the work of a tiny number of misdirected youth, and fear they will result in the indiscriminate profiling law abiding Somali citizens of Seattle,” a portion of the letter reads. We have posted the full letter below. It was first posted here.
Yemane Gebremicael, president of African Diaspora of Washington, and Hassan Diis, identified as an East African community activist, also allege that Capitol Hill businesses are discriminating against “Somali community members and students.”
“Capitol Hill business owners are targeting the Somali community, and are using their disproportionate power and money to influence local officials,” they write. “We’ve also heard reports that they’re refusing to serve the Somali community members and students who study and work around that neighborhood.”
In a CHS article about his new marijuana-related business venture, Lost Lake co-owner Dave Meinert responded to a question about whether his businesses were refusing service to Somalis, denying the allegation. Meinert’s Comet Tavern is a CHS advertiser.
Early this month, CHS posted a letter from Neumos and Lost Lake partner Jason Lajeunesse in which he described an attack inside his 10th Ave business and how a “gang” has been terrorizing Capitol Hill:
Dear Mr Mayor, I’m writing this email on behalf of the capitol hill neighborhood, local business owners, my friends who have been jumped, my patrons who are threatened and abused, my employees who have been assaulted, the residents and the women of the neighborhood who are being harassed and threatened daily.
I’m writing to plead with you Mr Mayor, that something be done about the gang (usually described as Somali) that is ever present on Capitol Hill. It’s disheartening to me that these guys have been terrorizing our neighborhood for well over a year, maybe 2 years and this CONTINUES to go on. SOMONE IS GOING TO GET RAPED OR KILLED and SPD AND MAYORS OFFICE WILL BE TO BLAME.
Incidents have been exploding lately, day and night. We just had an assault INSIDE the restaurant (Lost Lake) on Saturday, AT BRUNCH? This is just ONE of many many many incidents. Below is a text from a concerned friend, neighbor, business owner who reached out to me today about an incident LAST NIGHT.
I don’t know who all should be on this thread, but I’ve cc’d people I know have a vested interest in this community.
We should be very afraid for the safety of those we care about, our neighbors and those who continue to be victimized at this point. It’s only getting worse. It’s clear that these guys have no fear of reprimand. It’s clear they see mayor’s office and spd standing by doing nothing as they terrorize our neighborhood.
Mr. Mayor, How long are you going to let this persist? What is the plan of action? Is there a plan of action? How can we help you help us?
Jason Lajeunesse, concerned neighbor.
(CHS has removed first names from the image included in the letter)
Only days later, SPD held a community meeting at 12th and Pine’s East Precinct headquarters to announce data-driven emphasis patrols and the assignment of gang units to the area to help quell a reported spike in street crime. CHS talked with SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole about her short and long-term strategies for the neighborhood as she took part in the first weekend of increased patrols.
The crackdown appears to have quieted things somewhat in the area. CHS has reported on a handful of street robberies since the emphasis patrols began earlier this month but the activity is far below the record pace tallied in August.
And there have been no robberies as brazen as this late-August hold-up of a DJ at gunpoint outside the Odd Fellow building or this August 1st Cal Anderson robbery in which one victim was grazed in the head by gunfire.
UPDATE: A strong-arm robbery reported inside the park just before 2 AM Monday is somewhat indicative of the less serious crimes currently seen around Cal Anderson. In this morning’s late night case, SPD was called to the basketball courts for the report that a group of four or five teens had assaulted their victim and robbed him before running from the park. The target in the crime? The victim told police that one of the males in the group wearing a gray sweatsuit had robbed him of his basketball. There were no immediate arrests.
Last week, a reported armed robbery in the park turned out to be a pistol-packed argument between two men over shared marijuana.
East Precinct has asked for Cal Anderson’s lights to be left on until after last call on weekends while commander Capt. Pierre Davis last week told the community council that the emphasis and foot patrols in the area would continue.
Chief O’Toole is scheduled to appear at Thursday’s September meeting of the East Precinct Advisory Council, 6:30 PM in Seattle U’s Chardin Hall.
Below is the full letter first reported by the Seattle Globalist:
Dear Mr. Mayor,
We are writing on behalf of the East African and Somali communities in Seattle. We have been informed that your office has received a complaint email from a Capitol Hill business owner and from others in the neighborhood.
We are very sorry to hear this news. As East African community members we are more than prepared to collaborate with your office and the police department to look into these allegations of criminal activity by members of our community and work with all parties involved in this matter as soon we can.
We, the community members, disapprove of the allegations. We feel saddened by the generalization that the youth gang had the appearance of Somali ethnicity. We are a very peaceful and friendly community. The news of the allegations raised major concerns among us. We have already had our fair share of problems, but these new accusations are unreasonable, and unsubstantiated.
As a community, we are dismayed by charges that our youth are involved in activities such as nightclubbing, drinking, terrorizing, gambling and prostitution. We teach our youth and children to stay away from all the above practices. We are traditionally a very conservative community who are principally against such offenses. It is our obligation to respect our neighborhood.
Our communities are residing around Yesler Terrace and the surrounding areas of the Capitol Hill, and we have a large number of students who study at Seattle Central Community College and Seattle University. We also have a large number of taxi drivers and Uber drivers who serve all the above-mentioned communities, but mainly work around Capitol Hill.
We’ve heard that there have been a number of robberies that took place in the Capitol Hill area, and that the police have stepped up patrols in the area in response. In his complaint letter to you, the Capitol Hill business owner generalized that the perpetrators of these crimes are Somali. We hereby express our strong belief that these crimes are the work of a tiny number of misdirected youth, and fear they will result in the indiscriminate profiling law abiding Somali citizens of Seattle.
Capitol Hill business owners are targeting the Somali community, and are using their disproportionate power and money to influence local officials. We’ve also heard reports that they’re refusing to serve the Somali community members and students who study and work around that neighborhood.
We sincerely believe that the Mayor’s Office and the Seattle Police Department will conduct a though investigation and will not consider the voice of just one group of citizens and bend to their wishes, at the expense of another.
As representatives of the Somali and East African communities, we want to make clear our willingness to collaborate and work through these issues as one community.
President, African Diaspora of Washington
East African Community Activist