Reported hate crimes in Seattle have jumped from 118 in 2016 to 234 in 2017.
Hate crimes increased in Washington by 32 percent in 2017, outstripping a 17 percent national increase in hate-motivated crimes documented in data released Tuesday by the FBI.
Washington law-enforcement agencies reported 613 total hate-motivated offenses stemming from 510 separate incidents to the the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report last year — everything from homicide and rape to burglary and “intimidation” — more than any other state except California, according to the FBI’s data. On a per-capita basis, Washington had the third highest rate of hate crimes reported in 2017, coming in behind Washington, D.C. and Kentucky. Washington was also third in 2016.
In Seattle, the number of reported hate crimes almost doubled, from 118 incidents in 2016 to 234 in 2017.
A total of 243 Washington law-enforcement agencies participated in the annual FBI survey, 10 more agencies than participated in 2016. An analysis of the FBI data, however, indicates that those additions — all small- to medium-sized towns and cities — would account for only a small fraction of the increases of hate-crime incidents.
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The largest number of hate crimes reported by Seattle to the FBI involved crimes directed at someone’s race and/or ethnicity, which represented 120 of the total cases. Forty-five cases involved crimes motivated by someone’s religion; 57 for sexual orientation, one for gender and 11 involved crimes motivated by discrimination against someone’s gender identity. Most of the reported crimes involved some sort of intimidation.
There were 15 murders, 23 rapes and 990 aggravated assaults nationally with a hate-crime motivation, according to the FBI. Washington reported one homicide, one rape and 72 aggravated assaults motivated by hate or bias.
“In the wake of the tragic events in Pittsburgh that impacted the nation, we want to assure Washingtonians that their safety and civil rights are a top priority,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Paul of the FBI’s Seattle Field Office. “When incidents targeting protected groups occur in our community, we perform timely and meticulous reviews to determine whether bias was a motivating factor and if violation(s) of federal law occurred. We continue to work diligently, in close collaboration with our law-enforcement partners, to counter the intentions of those who seek to threaten, intimidate, or harm our community via bias-motivated crimes.”
Nationally, anti-Jewish hate crimes made up 58.1 percent of the 1,679 hate crimes targeting religion. The next closest were anti-Islamic hate crimes, which made up 18.7 percent of hate crimes. Of the 4,832 crimes fueled by race and ethnicity, 48.8 percent were motivated by anti-black or African-American bias.
The new FBI data comes less than a month after a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. A rise in hate crimes against Jews and a bomb threat at the Stroum Jewish Community Center last year prompted Mercer Island resident Joseph Schocken to push to expand the federal hate-crimes laws to include threats and the defacing of religious institutions.
Schocken, a Seattle businessman who has worked on federal legislation before, enlisted the help of Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, to craft the bill and get it through the U.S. House of Representatives. The U.S. Senate passed the measure two months ago.
The hate that rippled out of Pittsburgh was noticed in Seattle, said Nancy Greer, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. “After Pittsburgh there was an immediate uptick in our community. It was almost as if people had permission,” she said.
Seattle’s Jewish community is no stranger to hate-fueled violence. In 2006 Naveed Haq burst into the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and shot to death Pamela Waechter and wounded five others. From that tragedy the Federation created SAFE Washington, which provides emergency preparedness for situations like a shooting. SAFE Washington has also created an alert network that includes local law enforcement, the FBI and Homeland Security.
Speaking about the FBI report on Tuesday, Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said, “This report is a call to action — and we will heed that call. The Department of Justice’s top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes. They are also despicable violations of our core values as Americans. I am particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes — which were already the most common religious hate crimes in the United States — that is well documented in this report.”
Since Congress enacted the Hate Crimes Statistics Act in 1990, the U.S. attorney general has collected data “about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” The FBI was tasked with developing procedures for implementing, collecting, and managing hate-crime data.
The rising numbers of hate crimes is something that has been evident since the 2016 presidential election said, Brian Levin, director for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Since the university began tracking hate crime numbers in 1992, 2017 is the third largest increase.