Sep 7, 2023 - News

Hate crimes fell in Seattle last year, while rising elsewhere

Illustration of a downward arrow made out of crime-scene tape.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Seattle saw a decline in hate crimes last year, bucking a trend seen in most major cities, according to a new analysis.

Driving the news: The number of reported hate crimes in Seattle declined 14% from 2021 to 2022, for 19 fewer annual incidents, according to Seattle police data.

  • Meanwhile, hate crimestypically defined as violence stemming from victims' race, color, sexuality, religion or national origin — rose by 10% across 42 major cities.
  • That's according to an unpublished report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Why it matters: Despite the downtick in Seattle, the report's overall findings reflect a 22-year trend of increasing hate crimes nationwide, amid a rise in white nationalism and soaring numbers of attacks on Asian Americans during the pandemic, Axios' Russell Contreras writes.

Between the lines: Miri Cypers, regional director for the Pacific Northwest office of the Anti Defamation League, told Axios that Seattle's hate crime numbers are still "relatively high" compared to other cities, despite last year's slight downtick.

  • She said that may be partly because Seattle police do "a strong job of reporting" hate crimes. Unlike many agencies, the Seattle Police Department has a specialized bias crimes coordinator, who helps categorize and follow up on incidents, Cypers said.
  • While Seattle had 121 hate crime incidents reported in 2022, San Francisco had 36 and Portland had 53, according to the recent report.

Zoom out: Statewide in Washington, hate crimes dropped from 592 incidents in 2021 to 544 incidents in 2022.

  • But that's after the state's number of hate crimes hit a 20-year-high in 2021, according to the ADL.
  • "We can and must do more to stem the tide of bigotry and bias in our region," Cypers said in a news release last December.
  • That could include establishing a hate-crime response hotline like Oregon's, while offering more resources and support to victims, she told Axios.

What they're saying: "One hate crime is one too many," Steve Strachan, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, told reporters in July.

  • He said being a victim of these types of bias-motivated crimes "shakes a person to the core."

Of note: Seattle police officials say there's been a continued downward trend in hate crimes in 2023, with 80 hate crimes so far this year versus 96 by this time last year.

What we're watching: Whether final numbers from 2023 will show continued improvement in Seattle's hate crime numbers, or if incidents again start to rise.


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