We Must Do More to Respond To the Rise in Hate Crime

On June 1st our City proclaimed June LGBTQ Pride Month. The Council and Mayor recognized that the fight for equality is not over and we must continue to lead the nation in establishing policies to prevent discrimination. We raised the LGBTQ flag and promised to continue to speak out against injustice and stand with those who are fighting for equality.  In the final days of Pride Month, in the wake of the recent horrible Orlando tragedy, and upon learning about the attack of one of our own local LGBTQ leaders, we must ensure that we keep our promise. As Chair of the committee that provides policy oversight for issues related to civil rights, I am committed to identifying meaningful efforts to reduce incidents of hate crimes.

Seattle’s hate crime laws are codified under, SMC 12A.06.115 After a 2008 audit on the City’s enforcement of Bias Crimes, the Seattle Police Department has made strides to improve and/or increase the City of Seattle’s: 1) response to bias attacks; 2) awareness and education about bias attacks; and 3) inter-department and inter agency responsiveness to victims and communities affect by bias attacks. According to the Status Report on Implementation of Office of City Auditor Recommendations, October 2012, most of the 17 recommendations have been implemented.

Recent efforts like the Seattle Police Department’s (SPD) Safe Places initiative are helpful in enhancing the relationship between SPD; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) community; and local businesses.  They provide organizations ‘SPD SAFE PLACE’ decals and signage and encourage those entities to clearly post them as a symbol of safety for the victims of LGBTQ crime and a warning to those who commit those crimes.

Despite these efforts, hate crimes appear to be on the rise.  According to a recent Seattle Times article, “in 2015, 72 hate crimes and incidents against LGBTQ people were reported to the Seattle Police Department (SPD) — double the number from the previous year.  The number of such crimes against blacks — 67 — more than doubled. There were a total of 208 hate crimes and incidents reported in 2015, up from 126 in 2014.”

Some question whether patterns of gentrification are related to this increase in hate crimes.  “Though Seattle saw a 52 percent increase in same-sex couples from 2010 to 2012 – the traditional neighborhood for this demographic, Capitol Hill, saw a 23 percent decline of LGBT people living there during the same period.”  Similarly, “the Central District was more than 70 percent black in the early 1970’s. Today, African American’s represent less than a fifth of the neighborhoods population. That neighborhood’s once-small white population, by contrast, has ballooned to around 60 percent.”

I intend to ask the Auditor to investigate further and determine how the City is using the data from reported hate crimes, whether or not we analyze bias crimes reporting data for trends that eventually influence resource allocation, and whether crimes are investigated and prosecuted as bias crimes. In addition, I’m seeking additional assistance and resources to determine how we can utilize recognized best practices to reduce incidents of hate crimes in our City.


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