Hate crime data for Seattle is now more transparent and readily available to the public with Seattle Police Department’s recently launched Bias/Hate Crime Data dashboard.
Previously SPD provided reports to the City Council and the public twice per year.
“(The dashboard) gives people a little bit more information in real time and allows them to conduct their own analysis,” Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, SPD spokesperson, told CHS.
Shaun Knittel, with Social Outreach Seattle, is the chair of the SPD’s LGBTQ Advisory Council, and often meets with the victims of hate crimes.
“I cannot tell you how many people have no clue about the actual numbers; I’m really happy SPD is putting this out there,” Knittel told CHS.
Danni Askini, executive director of the Gender Justice League and a former member of Mayor Ed Murray’s LGBT Task Force, said the dashboard is a response to the task force’s request for SPD to more promptly provide hate crime data so communities can respond.
“I’m really excited that they put this up,” Askini told CHS. “As you can see the data is pretty clear that hate crimes have been on the rise and (crimes against) communities of color and LGBTQ have been particularly increasing.”
In 2016, 256 hate crimes were reported citywide, up from 204 in 2015. On Capitol Hill, the total increased slightly from 43 in 2015 to 45 in 2016. Last year 22 incidents targeting LGBTQ people were reported and 22 crimes with a racial bias were reported. In 2015 LGBTQ-related bias crimes were slightly more with 26, but racial bias crimes were considerably less with only 11 incidents reported. The data also shows data for people targeted for religion, ethnicity, gender, homelessness, disabilities, or multiple categories. Citywide in both 2016 and 2015, hate crimes against race were the most frequently reported followed by LGBTQ and religious incidents.
Askini thinks the citywide increase of 52 more reports in 2016 than 2015 is due to two different factors —- more incidents occurring and more reporting of incidents. Whitcomb and Knittel attribute the increase in numbers to improved reporting.
The increase in incidents, Askini said, can be attributed in part to the turbulent political climate as crimes against people of color, certain religious groups, the LGBTQ community, women, and others have been on the rise across the nation.
In December, Washington state elected officials responded to the discrimination, vandalism, and violence by declaring the state a hate-free zone.
Often people committing the crimes are repeat offenders. The report creates a record that can be used in prosecution when the suspect is caught. Askini and Whitcomb both said people trust the police more and know that the department takes hate violence seriously.
Whitcomb said no anomalies in hate crimes have been found on Capitol Hill. The crimes committed by people of different backgrounds impact different people throughout the city and aren’t concentrated anywhere.
It’s difficult to predict, Whitcomb said. The lack of a pattern is something that has bothered Knittel the most and left him uneasy.
“I would love to tell people, ‘Here’s what to look for,’” Knittel said, but the criminals and their targets run the gamut.
Askini said many people are surprised that bias crimes occur in Capitol Hill, but said many other coastal cities have also seen an increase in hate crimes against LGBTQ people as gentrification spreads.
Knittel agrees that the changing demographic of the neighborhood has contributed to more crimes occurring on Capitol Hill. The Hill used to be a “stronghold” with hate crimes against the LGBTQ community occurring outside of the neighborhood rather than in it.
“People are bringing the hate to us,” he said.
SPD categorizes bias crimes under three different categories:
- Malicious Harassment: The reason the suspect targeted the victim was based on the suspect’s belief about the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, mental, physical, or sensory handicap, homelessness, marital status, age, parental status, gender or political identity.
- Crimes with Bias Elements: That during the commission of any crime, bias comments are made.
- Non-Criminal Bias Incidents: Offensive and/or derogatory language that although hurtful, does not meet the level of a crime and may fall under the category of free speech.
SPD representatives are also say that many of the reported crimes are crimes with elements of bias vs. straight up hate crimes.
During the past few years, Askini said the Gender Justice League has been involved in trying to address the issue of hate crimes by working with SPD and the Mayor’s Office, raising awareness in the community, providing one-on-one support, and connect victims with resources. But a broader community-based effort is needed.
“The most impacted communities should be responsible for the violence they’re facing,” Askini told CHS.
There also needs for better support systems for victims to ensure they have access to resources after a bias crime, and funding needs to be increased for community-based organizations to find non-criminal solutions -— like activating spaces and addressing homelessness.
“Many experience bias-related crimes because they’re on the street, not in a home away from people who can target them,” Askini said.
Knittel thinks SPD should take the transparency of hate crimes one step further and provide the public information about the conclusions of cases.
The dashboard allows users to view data citywide, by precinct, neighborhood, bias type, crime type, and year.
On Capitol Hill in 2016, most of the hate crimes reported were malicious harassment at 18, followed by crimes with bias elements at 16. Citywide, 90 crimes with bias elements were reported and 89 malicious harassment incidents were reported.
SPD will update the dashboard each month and it will be available on the city’s open data website.
The department encourages hate crime victims to call 911 for in-progress incidents or (206) 625-5011 after an incident has occurred.
“We place a high value on finding those people responsible and holding them accountable,” Whitcomb said.