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New spike in anti-Gay violence?
New spike in anti-Gay violence?
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle police are declining to characterize recent assaults on Gay men as a "spike" in anti-Gay violence.

On March 23, King County prosecutors filed charges against Abiazzizi I. Idris, alleging he assaulted and robbed a man on Rainier Avenue South while yelling anti-Gay slurs. Idris reportedly announced that homosexuality was an offense against his religion. The incident occurred on March 10.

The March 10 incident follows at least three other known assaults on Gay men in February, an assault on a woman presumed by her attacker to be a Lesbian, also in February, and one on a Gay man last October.

In January, 11 bars on Capitol Hill catering to Gay and Lesbian customers received letters threatening to poison their patrons with ricin, a highly toxic poison extracted from castor beans.

SPD spokesperson Det. Renee Witt told SGN, "I can't say there's a spike. It could be that people are paying more attention to incidents, so more incidents are being reported."

"We're doing a good job asking people to report these incidents, and people are stepping up," she continued. "It's a good thing. More reports mean we have a greater ability to make arrests and go to prosecution."

King County Deputy Prosecutor Mike Hogan also declined to characterize the recent assaults as a trend. "I only see cases with an ID'd suspect," he told SGN. "Most cases I don't see. Given the random nature of the crime, most people involved don't know each other, so to get an ID'd suspect the police have to gather evidence and follow up on leads."

"Given that I haven't seen most of the reports, going just on what I've read about in the SGN or elsewhere, some of the reports may be malicious harassment and some are clearly malicious harassment," he continued, "but it's not like two years ago when I saw many cases. It seemed like one every week."

Concerns about the number of hate crimes targeting the LGBT community in the summer of 2007 prompted Seattle City Council members Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark to ask the Office of the City Auditor for a report on bias crimes. The OCA presented its Bias Crimes Audit to Council member Nick Licata's Committee on Culture, Civil Rights, Health, and Personnel in August 2008.

The OCA's Audit documented bias crimes during the years 2006 and 2007, evaluated police response, and made recommendations for improvements. While it characterized the SPD's response as "adequate," the OCA called for improvements in incident tracking, community outreach, and SPD training and coordination.

At the time the Audit was released, Council member Tom Rasmussen also called for an annual comprehensive report on bias crimes.

Council member Tim Burgess, whose Public Safety, Human Services and Education Committee oversees the SPD, has promised to hold additional hearings on the Bias Crimes Audit in April or May.

Asked for comment on the recent assaults, Burgess aide Nigel Herbig told SGN, "The SPD would have a better idea of whether there is a spike in violence. They have the stats. The Council member usually talks with them more about policy issues than actual crime reports."

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