SEATTLE – The city of Seattle is pledging to do more to combat hate crimes after an internal report shows a dramatic 400% increase in the number of victims in the city since 2012.
Mayor Jenny Durkan signed an executive order Tuesday night and promises public funding to track the crimes and evaluate city policies.
The executive order establishes a work group that will go over what the city already does and review the laws already on the books to see if they do enough to protect vulnerable populations.
“The executive order is signed,” said Durkan.
“We know that the levels of hate and toxicity in our country is rising, that is beyond dispute,” she said. “And while Seattle prides ourselves in progressive values, the numbers show we have not been immune to this rise.”
“Hate crimes happen in neighborhoods that are changing, experiencing gentrification or other changes,” added City Councilmember Lisa Herbold.
The numbers are striking. A city auditor’s office report shows reports of bias incidents to Seattle Police between 2012 and 2018 are up.
Ranging from offensive comments, to crimes with biased elements or crimes motivated by bias, reports have grown exponentially.
Plus, physical assaults have seen a tremendous increase in the same time span.
“We will be leading with equity and a real commitment how to learn the city can better address the causes of hate violence and make our city safer for our most vulnerable neighbors,” said Durkan.
The executive order establishes a workgroup to review policies, law and procedures – how to improve them and how to protect racial and religious minorities, and gay and transgender people from harm.
“Every person in our city deserves to feel safe, free from harassment and respected,” said Herbold.
Herbold has been working behind the scenes through past city councils on similar legislation.
The new work group will also decide how to reach victims who may be reluctant to speak out.
“One of the things that we found is that people don’t always report to SPD, so we have to create community-based options for people to report hate crimes,” said Herbold.
Durkan says the work group could get funding and start work as early as this fall.