By Mike De Felice
Special to Kitsap Daily News
PORT ORCHARD – Police officials are investigating a report of property destruction and graffiti as a possible instance of an anti-Asian hate crime.
A property destruction incident described as “allegedly racially-biased” took place yesterday in the city in the early morning hours, according to the Port Orchard Police Department. The incident involved the spray painting of “AZN,” which possibly might be an abbreviation for Asian, on the victim’s vehicle. The victim’s garage door was also marked up with graffiti.
“While it is still too early to determine if the crime is motivated by hate or racial bias, the Port Orchard Police Department takes all allegations seriously,” a department press release said.
“This is an active investigation. We are still working it,” Police Chief Matt Brown told Kitsap Daily News this evening.
The vandalism incident took place at a home in the 2100 block of Caleb Place Southeast of Port Orchard. The suspect used red spray paint to write the letters on the vehicle and deface the house. The suspect is described by police as standing between 5-foot-2 and 5-foot-6 tall with a thin build and wearing a red hooded sweatshirt with black pants.
About the same time the incident was reported by police today, Kitsap Daily News published an article on the lack of anti-Asian American incidents in Kitsap County, in contrast to an uptick in racially motivated attacks nationwide against Asian Americans. In the story, Brown said his officers during the last two and a half years have not seen an increase in local crime involving Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders as victims.
Bremerton Police said their department had actually experienced a decrease in crimes involving Asian victims in 2020, a drop to 159 incidents from 182 such crimes reported in 2019.
Hate crimes against those of Asian descent have increased in many large cities since the pandemic, according to recent reports by law enforcement officials. Anti-Asian sentiment spread in part after former President Trump referred to the COVID-19 virus as the “Kung flu” and “China virus.”
City officials issue statement
“Hate is not tolerated here. We stand with the AAPI community to ensure they feel safe and welcomed in their homes and in this City,” Brown said in the statement.
“In our nation, we have seen an increase in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We will not allow this to happen here.”
Following the graffiti incident, Brown and Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu issued a joint statement condemning racist and violent acts that have occurred across the nation.
“Racism and hate have no place in our nation, in our state, and in our City,” the officials said.
“We are asking all members of Port Orchard, and the South Kitsap community, to call out hate and racist acts … Each of us must do our part and not allow this to fester in a community we all love. Attacks on members of the Asian-American or Pacific Islander community are attacks on all of us. We must never permit these acts in our community,” the statement said.
Detectives are reviewing video surveillance and canvassing neighbors for additional information. Anyone with information about the incident can contact Detective Beth Deatherage at 360-876-1700 or email her at email@example.com.
Tips may also be left anonymously at that number or through 911, according to police.