by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Meet Detective Elizabeth Wareing, Seattle Police Department's Bias Crimes Coordinator. Working out of SPD headquarters downtown, Wareing is on the frontlines of helping victim's get justice and hunting down their attackers. Additionally, and most importantly, her investigations are an integral part of the prosecution's case against people who commit such crimes. Without her work, there would be no case.
Wareing is a lateral, or cross-department hire from the City of Lynwood. She is not new to SPD, however; and Seattle Gay News learned she has worked on crimes against children, has studied psychology and sociology, and has advocated for victims of sex crimes, domestic violence and more during her nearly two decades as a police officer.
Wareing is gearing up for the spring and summer months when Seattle's LGBTQ and other minority communities see an increase in bias crimes. Her caseload is already staggering (she works on several cases at once, year-round); however, she knows that it will only increase as temperatures rise.
So what is a Bias Crime? In short it is the name given to hate crimes.
The Seattle Police Department tracks all crimes that occur within the city limits of Seattle. This tracking is conducted so that the SPD can identify problem areas within the City and direct patrol and/or investigative resources to reduce these incidents. The FBI also mandates statistical crime reporting from every law enforcement agency in the United States.
Bias incidents that occur within the City of Seattle fall under three categories:
Malicious Harassment: The reason the suspect targeted the victim was based on the suspect's belief about the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, mental, physical, or sensory handicap, homelessness, marital status, age, parental status, gender or political identity.
Crimes with Bias Elements: That during the commission of any crime, bias comments are made.
Non-Criminal Bias Incidents: Offensive and/or derogatory language that although hurtful, does not meet the level of a crime and may fall under the category of free speech.
Sometimes LGBTQ people witness a crime that might not be motivated by hate or will themselves become the victim of a robbery or similar. Seattle Police recommend if you are an LGBTQ victim of, or witness to a crime, please report the incident to the police, either DURING, or IMMEDIATELY AFTER it occurs BY CALLING 911. This will allow the Police Department to respond to, and statistically track, anti-LGBTQ incidents. The Seattle Police Department can then deploy police officers and other resources to the area where these crimes are occurring.
The 911 operator needs quick and concise information, such as:
o Your injuries: 911 Operator will call medics while talking with you.
o The specifics of the crime: What happened?
o What was said: Tell the 911 operator and the responding officer if the suspect(s) used words to indicate a hate crime.
o If there was a weapon involved: Describe it as a gun, knife, etc.
o Description of suspects: Age, race, height, weight and clothing description of the suspect(s)
o Any unusual characteristics: Scars, marks, tattoos, piercings, speech, etc.
o Suspect vehicle description: Color, make, model, vehicle license.
o Direction of travel: Which way did they flee?
Even if you think the crime is insignificant, or that you don't want to bother the police over small issues, reporting crimes quickly allows the Seattle Police Department to:
o Respond immediately to the scene to prevent further harm to you or others.
o Collect evidence that could be destroyed if not discovered and collected quickly.
oInterview witnesses who may otherwise be gone if you delay your call to 911.
o Apprehend the suspect(s) quickly so they do not continue to victimize others.
o Determine if the suspect(s) are engaged in a pattern of previous and/or ongoing behavior that threatens the community.
o Increase community awareness of criminal activity in the area through media notification and alerts.
o Develop solutions and/or deterrents to reduce the crime by adding patrols to the area.
Your quick actions and reporting will help reduce crime in Seattle, say police officials.
What about bullying? We know that, according to several GLSEN surveys, that LGBTQ students report bullying at alarmingly high rates. So what can be done?
According to SPD, the difference between criminal conduct and general 'mean' behavior between students can be complicated. School systems policies and protocols, as well as Washington State law (RCW), define a variety of conduct that may fall under either 'criminal' behavior and/or general conduct violations of school policy.
LGBTQ students who are experiencing bullying within their Seattle-area schools are encouraged to report these incidents to the following individuals:
o Seattle Police, or both so that this type of behavior is documented, investigated and stopped immediately.
o A trusted adult in your school (Teacher, Counselor, Assistant Principal, Nurse or GSA advisor).
o Lisa Love (Manager, Health Education/LGBTQ Liaison) at: email@example.com or call 206-252-0982.
The Seattle Public Schools also offers LGBTQ students alternative learning environments at the high school level, such as NOVA High School and The Center School.
For more information about NOVA High School, please see their website at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 206-252-3500.
For more information about The CENTER SCHOOL, please see their website at: email@example.com, or call 206-252-9850.
SPD Community Input Form
One of the best tools offered to LGBTQ Seattleites is an online community input form. The form, which does not take the place of a police report, does, however, provide LGBTQ people with the opportunity to speak directly to SPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer Jim Ritter, and even provides the opportunity to report anonymously. However, it is important to note that by being anonymous it will not allow the LGTBQ liaison officer to respond and assist you with your topic. The form is available online at http://www.seattle.gov/spd-safe-place/spdlgbtq-online-community-input-form.
Bias Crimes Coordinator Wareing and SPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer Jim Ritter both agree that there are certain things SPD recommends for each person do to stay safe whether in or out of Seattle's Gayborhood of Capitol Hill.
o Be aware of your surroundings.
o Try and walk in well-lit areas, with other people around.
o Walk in groups, or with others nearby.
o Don't display or count your money where others can see you.
o Conceal your technology (i-pads, cell phones, etc).
o Be cautious when approached by strangers.
If confronted by someone, try not to verbally engage with them. Drugs, alcohol, or mental illness may be driving their behaviors so your safest course is to disengage and not escalate the situation.
If anyone attempts to rob you, either by threats or with a weapon, do not resist. It is not worth risking your life or physical injury for the amount of money you will lose.
It is important to note protected free speech. If the comments are accompanied by threats, threatening behavior, or physical harm, it then becomes a crime.
o Practice defensive driving
o Don't compete with other drivers
o Don't engage in insults and/or gestures with other drivers
o Keep your distance from aggressive drivers
o Report aggressive driving to 911
o When leaving a party or a bar, travel in groups. Criminals will focus on lone pedestrians.
o Don't get in stranger's cars.
o Call a cab, sober friend or family member to take you home. DUI's are dangerous to everyone, and they cost a lot of money.
Meeting People Online or through Dating Apps
o If you meet someone, tell your friends where you're going & describe the person you're with.
o Don't volunteer any of your personal information (date of birth, address, etc.).
o Meet your date in a public place.
o Try to find out as much about your date as possible.
o If practical, record your date's vehicle description and license plate number.
o Save all of your e-mails and texts from the person you're meeting.
o If your date is making you uncomfortable, don't worry about politeness. LEAVE!
o If your date begins to stalk or harass you, tell them clearly to stop. If they don't, call 911.
SPD SAFE PLACE Program
Lastly, don't forget that the SPD SAFE PLACE Program is widely used by Seattle businesses in all neighborhoods. Participating businesses display the SPD SAFE PLACE symbol at their premises and agree to adhere to some important responsibilities that greatly assist in protecting LGBTQ victims of crime.
Victims will recognize the SPD SAFE PLACE symbol of safety that indicates a business, organization, school or premise is willing to assist and protect them. To make this concept effective the Seattle Police Department require business owners to instruct their staff, employees, supervisors, managers, teachers, volunteers, counselors and/or students, etc. of the following protocol:
o Apply the SPD SAFE PLACE decal outside the front entrance of the establishment, building, room, etc. (approx. 3-5 feet high, if possible). If there is no glass at the front entrance, the SPD SAFE PLACE poster can be placed conspicuously inside the business.
o Allow these victims to enter and remain at the premises until Seattle Police arrive.
o Call, or assist these victims in calling 911.
Group/Individual training for SPD SAFE PLACE participants is available by calling Officer Jim Ritter at (206) 386-1793.
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