A meeting between the Seattle Police Department and the International District community was held in Hing Hay Coworks at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, July 24. The focus of this meeting was to discuss updates on the Donnie Chin murder investigation and to talk about next steps for the neighborhood.
Andréa Akita, executive director of InterIm CDA, chaired the meeting, and Assistant Chief Bob Merner provided updates from the Seattle Police Department.
The tone of the discussion was more hopeful than Thursday’s community meeting with police in Legacy Hall. Merner said that neighborhood residents’ response to calls for private photos and videos “has been phenomenal.” Merner said tips that may help the investigation have been flooding into the tip line and homicide unit all day, and that while there is “still plenty to do … [the SPD] is moving the ball forward on this.”
Analysis of video evidence from individuals and private businesses has also been encouraging, Merner said, although there remains a lot of footage to work through. Merner said that SPD officers have been collecting and analyzing video evidence “since 8 o’clock this morning. … We’ve been pulling video all day long.”
Forensic evidence analysis has also progressed. At this time, the details of these examinations must remain confidential to maintain the integrity of the investigation. Merner said that the forensic team has been “working around the clock” for the past two days, and that officers are working overtime to catch the perpetrators in this case that is so important to the community.
Discussion then turned to the hookah lounges, as well as community leader and activist “Uncle” Bob Santos’ nonviolent rally scheduled for 10:30 p.m. that evening. Some community members expressed concern for the safety of protesters. SPD assured the group that officers would be present to protect protesters from harm and maintain the peacefulness of the demonstration.
Community leaders expressed a need to break down language barriers for reporting the suspicious activities that occur in the neighborhood, especially outside of hookah bars. Assistant Chief Merner said that SPD is currently working on providing more comprehensive translation services to improve 911’s ability to log reports from all people.
Merner said that the best way for the community to address the disorderly behavior they observe around hookah lounges is for the SPD and the community to work together. He said that SPD is now monitoring the blocks around hookah bars in our neighborhood. The more frequently residents report noise complaints to the police, the easier it is to list certain businesses or buildings as a “Chronic Nuisance Property,” which then generates more police monitoring.
SPD Officer Brian Rees, who was also in attendance of the meeting, encouraged ID community members to report even the smallest of crimes. Rees suggested that reporting social ills and less serious crimes (such as public intoxication, public urination, or unlicensed marijuana distribution) can reduce the number of more severe or violent crimes that occur. Rees indicated that no crime is too small to report, and encouraged people to reach out to the SPD more frequently.
SPD clarified previous comments made at Thursday’s community meeting regarding a seven-to-10-day increased support in the neighborhood. “There’s going to be increased patrols here as long as we need them,” Merner said to dispel the fear that police presence would decrease again after 10 days. “I can assure you that’s not going to happen.”
Merner said that the seven-to-10 day period of assessment would be used to identify areas requiring greater police presence in the future.
Following the SPD’s updates, community leaders expressed frustration about the increased number of undesirable businesses entering the community, as well as possible methods for better regulating what types of businesses can set up shop in the ID. Leaders also discussed ongoing safety problems in our neighborhood, and approaches to improving safety and maintaining the historical elements of Seattle’s Chinatown-ID.