'Outwatch' safety brigade aims to keep Capitol Hill residents safe

SEATTLE - Attacks, rapes, and muggings on Seattle's Capitol Hill have residents worried about walking home alone after dark. Frustrated and frightened by crimes, one woman decided to bring back an old tool to help curb the problem.

"As a business owner, I'm somewhat alarmed," says Jennifer Dietrich who runs Dr. Jen's House of Beauty on E. Pike Street.

Several of her makeup clients are Capitol Hill performers, drag queens, singers, and burlesque talent. She says a recent rape and an assault of a drag performer pushed her over the edge.

"I kind of just snapped. I'm tired of hearing about friends and neighbors being attacked. I need to do something," says Dr. Dietrich. And she is.

Dietrich decided to bring back the Q-Patrol, a group of community volunteers who will walk the streets of Capitol Hill in groups of 4 - armed with mace and self defense training - deterring hate crimes and violence.

This reincarnation will be called Outwatch. Volunteers wearing gray shirts with purple lettering and hats, will accompany performers who feel targeted to their apartments or cars. They will also walk with people who are just frightened to be alone.

The patrols will initially take place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.

"It's scary," Mikkel Prim says. Prim has been attacked multiple times on Capitol Hill, and plans to join the citizen's safety brigade.

The original Q-Patrol launched in 1991. It was modeled after the beret-wearing, weapon-free Guardian Angels group in New York that took to streets and subways busting drug dealers and promoting safety.

Outwatch will be temporarily based in Dr. Jen's. She says a lot of people aren't reporting their attacks to police.

"I didn't report mine. There's an overwhelming sense that it doesn't matter," says Dietrich. She says Seattle police can't be everywhere, and Outwatch volunteers will be vigilante at reporting problems and not vigilantes.

Seattle police say it's tough to combat crimes that aren't reported. Officer Mark Jamieson says he'd like to address that issue before commenting on community patrols.

The Outwatch patrols begin Thursday, March 20th. They are recognizable by their shirts which read "Outwatch" on the front and "Watch Out" on the back.