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City Council takes a deeper look at Seattle hate crimes — 6 lessons

“Hate crimes are most frequently directed towards a victim’s race or ethnicity (54%) and sexual orientation (32%)”

The Seattle City Council’s Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development, and Arts Committee took a deeper look at the city’s continued rise in reported hate crime earlier this week and the findings show the challenge in stamping out the problem — areas in the city where the incidents occur are some of the busiest, densest, and most racially and culturally diverse.


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In May, CHS reported on a report from the Seattle City Auditor’s office that showed efforts to encourage people to report bias crime are — sadly — working. In 2018, there were some 521 crimes and incidents involving bias reported in Seattle, up 25% over the previous year and up 313% in the five-year period starting 2014. Amid other findings, the auditor says that the hate crime reporting data showed neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and the Central District are areas where bias incidents have been concentrated. Within the city of Seattle, the Downtown and Capitol Hill neighborhoods show clear concentrations of hate crimes,” a summary of the report reads. “The Downtown business district experienced more anti-race and ethnicity crimes, while Capitol Hill experienced more anti-LGBTQ crimes.” Hate crimes were also “concentrated along borders of racially diverse neighborhoods.”

A deeper examination of the trends by Tim Thomas of the University of Washington was presented to the council committee Tuesday and solidified the findings with six key takeaways for the city:

  1. Hate crimes are most frequently directed towards a victim’s race or ethnicity (54%) and sexual orientation (32%)
  2. Hate crimes occur more often in neighborhoods that are either racially diverse, slightly below the Seattle median income, or high proportion of renters.
  3. The largest clusters of hate crimes occur in Downtown and Capitol Hill. Smaller Clusters occur the U-District and Ballard—all spaces known for high commuter and visitor traffic.
  4. In less dense neighborhoods, where more White residents live, hate crimes occur along the borders of mostly White and racially diverse neighborhoods.
  5. Over half of all hate crimes (53%) occur in mixed general use (commercial and residentially zoned areas) and multi-family residential zones.
  6. Like hate crimes, hate graffiti is reported along busy thoroughfares and in highly racially diverse block-groups. Unlike hate crimes, hate graffiti is also reported in block- groups that are mostly White and White-Asian.

The committee’s discussion didn’t include ways to address the new granular findings. SPD’s relatively small bias crimes unit has focused on encouraging more people to report the crime by creating new resources to make reporting easier. But the findings also point to larger, socio-economic and demographic factors that are shaping the bias incidents.

The full Geographic and Demographic Analysis of Hate Crimes in Seattle is below.

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