Hate crimes rose 78% between 2013 and 2017 in Washington state, according to a new study that shows this state saw the nation’s ninth-largest rise in bias crime during that time period.

Among cities, Seattle had one of the sharpest reported increases in hate crimes, according to the study released Monday by Safehome.org, which analyzed data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Hate crimes are up 22% on a national level, with 8,500 cases reported to police between 2013 and 2017.

Racial animosity is the most common nationwide cause for bias crimes, which are known in Washington state as malicious harassment. It accounts for 60% of all single-bias offenses, followed by religious animosity at 21% and sexual orientation at 16%, the study found.

Here are some of the key national findings:

  • 51% of offenders were white.
  • 83% of offenders were 18 or older.
  • Black people were the most targeted racial group; victims were black in nearly half of all race-related incidents.
  • Jews were the most targeted religious group, accounting for 58% of all victims in religious incidents, followed by Muslims at 19%.

What is bias crime? A legal explanation of ‘hate crime’ and ‘malicious harassment’

The five states with the greatest increase in reported hate crimes were Wyoming, Georgia, Vermont, Delaware and Oregon. The cities with the greatest reported increase in hate crimes were Eugene, Phoenix, Seattle, Washington D.C. and Cincinnati.

In Seattle, the largest number of hate crimes reported to the FBI in 2017 involved crimes directed at someone’s race 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 for gender identity. Most of the reported crimes involved some sort of intimidation.


That same year, nationwide, there were 15 murders, 23 rapes and 990 aggravated assaults with a hate-crime motivation, according to the FBI. Washington reported one homicide, one rape and 72 aggravated assaults motivated by hate or bias.

Reported hate crimes and incidents up nearly 400% in Seattle between 2012 and 2018

Seattle’s numbers come out worse when looking at data collected from 2012 through 2018, according to a May 2019 story published in The Seattle Times that shows hate crimes nearly quintupling over that time period.

Last year, 521 hate crimes, crimes with bias elements and noncriminal bias incidents were reported to Seattle police, representing an increase of nearly 400% since 2012 and an increase of nearly 25% over 2017, according to the study released by the Office of the City Auditor.

Hate crimes are often underreported to law-enforcement agencies, so the actual number of incidents experienced is likely much higher, according to Safehome.

The study goes on to suggest that “social media and online communities are helping promote hatred and often prove to be that final spark to violence.”

“According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, most tech platforms are struggling to police extremism and racial, religious and anti-LGBTQ movements that use their platforms to organize,” the authors of the study write.


The authors go on to encourage people to report hate crimes, saying that “perhaps the most important aspect is simply reporting these incidents. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of hate crime incidents occur every year, but only a tiny fraction are reported to police. Having a better understanding of the scope of this issue could help spur swifter and more effective political action.”

Hate crimes skyrocket across the nation, according to FBI data

Information from The Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously included the District of Columbia on a list of states with the greatest increases in hate crimes. It should have been on the list of cities.