Groups of armed home invaders wearing ski masks have forced their way into more than a dozen South Seattle residences since June and have assaulted, pistol-whipped and threatened people at gunpoint, forcing victims to turn over cash and valuables, according to police.
The terrifying increase in home-invasion robberies was first made public last week when Capt. Rob Brown addressed residents during a joint meeting of the Seattle Police Department’s South Precinct and African American advisory councils in Rainier Beach.
Brown said Wednesday that eight robberies have been committed since Aug. 6 in his precinct’s Beacon Hill, Rainier Beach and Rainier View neighborhoods.
In each case, three to seven people in ski masks have forced their way into homes armed with at least one long gun and multiple handguns, according to Brown.
“I’m very concerned about the threat posed to our community members,” as well as to officers and those committing the robberies, Brown said. “When you go into a house with guns, it may not be the only gun there.”
He said each of the targeted residences belong to people of Asian descent and that there’s been a 15-to-20-minute delay in dispatching officers to crime scenes because of a language barrier — providing intruders ample time to get away.
In one chilling incident earlier this month, a 10-year-old boy had a gun held to his head and was forced to point out areas in his home where his family kept valuables, Brown told the community gathering.
“We’re working very hard on solving these crimes,” he said.
Since then, police have disclosed that there have been at least 14 home-invasion robberies committed since June in four Seattle ZIP codes: 98108, 98118, 98144 and 98178. Detectives suspect that isn’t a complete count, either, with additional incidents going unreported, according to the SPD’s online blotter.
“During these reported incidents, the victims were assaulted, pistol whipped or held at gunpoint while items of value and cash were stolen,” says the post, which said police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the robbers.
Victims are accosted outside their residences and then forced inside, the blotter post says. Some of the robbers have been seen driving Kia or Hyundai vehicles.
Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison filed a federal lawsuit in January against the two car manufacturers for failing to install anti-theft technology, which has led to an exponential increase in the thefts of Kias and Hyundais in Seattle and surrounding areas.
“Viral videos have taught many the relative ease with which Hyundai and Kia vehicles can be stolen, in many cases with tools no more advanced than a USB cable,” says a news release announcing the litigation. “In many cases, stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles have been involved in major accidents and these stolen vehicles are often used to commit other criminal activity and even violent crime.”
The SPD blotter post doesn’t indicate whether the vehicles used in the home-invasion robberies are believed to have been stolen. But in April, SPD’s crime prevention coordinators gave away steering wheel locks in each of the department’s five precincts as a direct result of the spike in thefts of certain Kia and Hyundai models.
Police have also released a list of safety tips, including telling friends and family who will be home and at what time, installing security devices and motion-sensor lighting, avoiding keeping large amounts of cash inside a residence and calling 911 to report suspicious activity.
Investigators ask anyone with information about the armed home-invasion robberies to call the Violent Crime Tip Line at 206-233-5000.