SEATTLE -- A violent gang may be behind the recent string of street robberies in Seattle's Rainier Valley neighborhood, perhaps targeting people getting off buses or Link Light Rail trains.
Pat Murakami, president of the Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Council, sent a "community safety alert" Sunday night to more than 1,000 community members.
Murakami cited a south precinct police captain she speaks with regularly who suspects the increase in robberies and assaults is the result of about 20 to 30 gang members working throughout the city.
She warns these gang members tend to target distracted people within a few blocks of bus and light rail routes.
"It happens all over Seattle so I'm careful wherever I go," said train passenger Lanetra Barron.
"Just when I'm walking, especially at night, I pay more attention," said a neighbor who only identified himself as Mark.
The Southeast Seattle Crime Prevention Council comprises concerned neighbors who meet monthly with police representatives.
Murakami said at Sunday's meeting many said, with all the recent attacks, including the death of hairdresser Danny Vega, they don't feel safe.
We should be able to walk casually and not always be turning around to see who is coming up behind us, said Murakami. There are even instances where they'll snatch something from you and run so fast, before you can even react, they're gone."
Theres been an uptick in street robberies in Rainier Valley, the worst involving the murder of Danny Vega, who was surprised by three assailants as he walked alone near the intersection of South Othello Street and Martin Luther King Way South.
"They're becoming increasingly violent, said Murakami.
"We're upset that we weren't notified earlier about a couple different pretty violent attacks. They weren't as brutal as Danny Vega's, but they should have been alerted, said Murakami.
When asked about this, Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel said he could not confirm the captain's comments, but added, "Robberies are an ongoing concern for the department. Our crime data shows a 3 percent reduction city-wide from last year."
"However we still average about 100 a month. Our robbery unit continues to focus their efforts on identifying robbery patterns and arresting those responsible," said Kappel.
Murakami says she's also talked with people who've been attacked, but they did not call police for fear of retaliation. She's encouraging those victims to speak up. She believes that's the only way they can catch the robbers.
I would really like to know what would happen if I did ride the light rail with my Concealed carry permit and my pistol and if someone tried to rob me and I shot them.