SEATTLE — High school students in North Seattle have been robbed, sometimes at gunpoint, by a group of teens in 14 separate incidents since late September, Seattle assistant police Chief Todd Kibbee said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
The majority of the street robberies happened in the Ballard area, but as recently as Tuesday there were three more robberies near Roosevelt High School and Bishop Blanchet High School, a private school just north of Green Lake. Police believe the robberies started around Sept. 19.
In a couple of the incidents, students were held in a car against their will until they released the passcodes for their cellphones.
“All of these robberies of our students coming home from schools are impacting families and giving a lot of stress to families,” Kibbee said. “I want to assure people that the Seattle Police Department is very aware of this and doing what we can to mitigate that.”
Kibbee could not say if similar robberies in other parts of the city are related, but he said there could be more incidents that haven’t been reported to SPD.
SPD is moving additional patrol officers and a mobile precinct closer to the schools to prevent further robberies, Kibbee said. He said there aren’t enough officers for every school in the area, but that the North Precinct was providing as many officers as it could.
All of the robberies have targeted students coming home from school between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. The suspects are usually driving stolen vehicles and are either jumping out of the car or approaching victims from behind and surprising them, Kibbee said.
Most of the robberies include two or three suspects in their late teens and mostly male. Some are wearing masks and some aren’t. Kibbee believes it is the same group of teens.
The suspects use force and sometimes display guns, Kibbee said. They are generally looking for iPhones and AirPods or other personal property.
SPD has recovered two stolen cars that they believe are part of these ongoing robberies. SPD’s investigation department is in the process of collecting evidence from the cars.
SPD is sharing information with Seattle Public Schools about how to keep students safe. On Monday, SPD conducted a crime prevention training online that SPS parents could attend virtually.
Saffa Bardaro says her son, a Ballard High School student, is one of the victims. He was walking home from school on Sept. 15 when he noticed a red Hyundai SUV driving recklessly. It made a U-turn and pulled up next to him and a friend on Northwest 80th Street near Loyal Heights Elementary. Five people wearing ski masks jumped out of the car and asked the two what kind of iPhones they had.
Bardaro’s son said he didn’t have a phone, even though he did. One of the suspects slapped Bardaro’s son’s friend, who ran away. The five suspects jumped on her son until he was in a fetal position on the ground and then hit him repeatedly in the back of the head.
“We don’t feel protected. The police will say ‘call 911’ but that is useless,” she said. “It feels like our kids are sitting ducks. And it’s clear because this keeps happening.”
Three people called the police during her son’s attack, but officers did not arrive on the scene. They called Bardaro a couple of hours later to take her son’s statement over the phone.
“I’m very disappointed this is ongoing at this point, six weeks later,” Bardaro said.
Kibbee advised parents to tell their students to walk against the flow of traffic so they can see what is coming at them, walk in groups, and keep their hoods down and their earphones off.
Kibbee urges anyone with information to call the SPD tip line at 206-233-5000.