Hate Crime Doubled In King County In 2014, Capitol Hill A Hot Spot | KUOW News and Information

Hate Crime Doubled In King County In 2014, Capitol Hill A Hot Spot

Dec 31, 2014

County prosecutors filed double the number of charges for hate crimes in 2014 as they did in other recent years.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office has filed 18 cases this year for "malicious harassment," the state's legal term for hate crimes. That's double the amount in 2012 and in 2013. Just seven cases were filed in 2011, according to spokesman Dan Donohoe.

Seattle's Capitol Hill is a hot spot.

"I think a lot of people who are walking around in the evening, whether it's Cal Anderson Park, or are leaving nightclubs or restaurants or bars at night, feel more vulnerable than they ever have," said Louise Chernin with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the region's gay chamber of commerce.

In the first few minutes of 2014, an arsonist set a fire in Neighbours, a gay dance club with 750 people crowded inside. No one was hurt — the New Year's revelers managed to evacuate safely, and the stairwell fire was quickly extinguished — but the gay community was shaken.

In July, Musab Masmari of Seattle was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for arson, not a hate crime.

"I don't understand how you can attempt to burn down a building full of people and not be charged with attempted murder," Neighbours spokesman Shaun Knittel said.

Masmari told a federal judge that his action was fueled by alcohol, not hate.

Patrols Lagging

Robberies and other crimes on Capitol Hill prompted Seattle Police this year to put more patrols on the streets, though mostly on weekends.  

Capitol Hill business owner Jennifer Dietrich decided to start patrols of her own.

"I had been hearing about several performer friends of mine being attacked, drag queens, various other people I knew," she said. "I was getting increasingly angry about the violence in Capitol Hill, and I wanted to do something about it. So I thought, 'let's start a foot patrol.'"

Dietrich's effort to revive the citizen squads that patrolled Capitol Hill in the 1990s made a media splash as she was in the planning and recruiting stages, but it never got off the ground. She never got enough volunteers to make the patrols happen.

"I'm a little baffled, honestly, because I am constantly hearing people complain about the situation," Dietrich said. "But they're kind of more interested in complaining, I think, than they are in actually putting feet to pavement."

Dietrich makes and sells makeup at Dr. Jen's House of Beauty on Pike Street, two blocks from Broadway. She said she never sees police on patrol though she often works at night.

Seattle Police Department spokesman Drew Fowler said police do still have extra patrols on Capitol Hill on Friday and Saturday nights, but not as many as they did earlier in the year.

"It gets expensive to have officers constantly working overtime," Fowler said. He said police constantly have to reallocate resources and they have noticed a big decrease in robberies on Capitol Hill.

Chernin said she thought police patrols were making a difference, but she said individuals should be more cautious on Capitol Hill at night.

"I think we're all trying to go back to the days where we used to make sure we walked in pairs, we walked with other people," she said. "We didn't leave bars alone at night."

Knittel said Neighbours hasn't suffered any hate crimes since the New Year's Eve arson.

The club has eliminated an internal door that Masmari used to enter unnoticed from the adjacent Therapy Lounge.

Neighbours will also have beefed-up security for the big crowd expected for this year's New Year's Eve party.

"We don't expect any problems," Knittel said.