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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 17, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 07
SPD and hate crimes: news roundup
Section One
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SPD and hate crimes: news roundup

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The Seattle Police Department (SPD) recently launched its new Bias/Hate Crime Data dashboard. According to the SPD Blotter website, the data are composed of citywide bias crime reports and can be viewed by precinct, microcommunity policing plan neighborhood, bias type, year, and crime type, for which the department tracks at three levels:

" Malicious Harassment (sometimes referred to as Hate or Bias Crimes): The motivation for the suspect targeting a particular person is based on their belief about the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, handicap (mental, physical, or sensory), homelessness, marital status, age, parental status, gender, or political identity. This usually involves an assault, property damage, or threat of harm.

" Crimes with Bias Elements: 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. The comments may cause a level of fear and concern in the targeted community, making the victim feel harassed, intimidated, or offended.

The SPD Blotter says the dashboard will be updated monthly, and will join other publicly available data on the city's open data site.

According to the site, the SPD's Bias Crimes Unit has been 'a leader in addressing hate crimes. Regardless of the level of offense, bias incidents are a priority.'

SPD officials want your input. 'Have a great idea for a dataset you'd like to see? Have feedback on how to improve the crime dashboard? We are soliciting feedback to improve and add more features to the SPD Crime Dashboard.' Contact SPD with your suggesting by sending email to crimedashboard@seattle.gov.

LSPD hosts community forum after Lake City anti-Gay attack
It is rare for SPD to hold a community forum. Sometimes the public wants answers to questions officials can't answer, because it might harm the prosecution of a case. Or anti-cop activists show up and disrupt or monopolize the microphone.

However, if an issue needs to be addressed, SPD leadership will go the extra mile and hold a community forum. Such a moment presented itself on February 8 at the Lake City Community Center, following a hate crime that happened to a Lake City resident who is Gay.

Aaron Amundsen, a Lake City business owner, began to speak out after becoming the target of a hate crime, according to KING5. News of the incident started spreading on social media and Seattle Police decided to host a community discussion about it at the Lake City Community Center.

'I've never had to hide for one minute who I was in this neighborhood,' Amundsen, co-owner of Emerald City Tattoo and Supply in the Lake City neighborhood, said to KING5.

According to Amundsen, a week after the November election, his business partner, Tony Johns, found a note on Amundsen's car windshield.

Johns says he retrieved the note from the windshield and read it. 'I came in, and I was quite upset,' he said. 'It broke my heart, it truly broke my heart.'

The note read:

'Hey faggot-We won, so you better watch you're [sic] back. You're [sic] days are numberd [sic]. Make America STRAIGHT again to make it GREAT again. You will see[,] you cock sucker.'

'It was like someone punched me in the gut,' Amundsen said, 'because I had never experienced that in my life, and I've been out since high school. I've never experienced something so threatening.'

SPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer Jim Ritter said the note was 'clearly a threat based on the victim's sexual identity,' adding, 'It's premeditated and the victim was targeted.'

SPD recently released the latest hate crimes numbers from 2016 and categories for hate crimes in the city, with incidents against the LGBTQ community being the second highest category.

Detective Beth Wareing, SPD Bias Crimes Coordinator, said that the numbers were up in November, and they've seen a few cases in which the election was referenced.

It's unclear if the increase in hate crimes is due to an actual increase in incidents or perhaps a willingness to report it.

Regardless, Amundson felt a responsibility to speak out.

'I believe it's my absolute right as a citizen, and as an upstanding person, to say wait a minute - this is not acceptable, and don't let anyone tell you it is,' he told KING5.

Amundson was one of the speakers at the Community Awareness Forum on hate crimes on February 8. Officer Ritter also spoke at the forum, addressing community collaboration between the department and neighborhoods. Ritter is the creator of the successful SPD Safe Place program. In addition, Mike Hogan, Sr. Deputy Prosecutor for King County; Bruce Miyake, assistant United States attorney; and Knight Sor, DOJ-Community Relations Service addressed the forum.

Hate crime data 2016
During the early half of 2015, Seattle's LGBTQ community was rocked by a number of hate crimes, which also spiked again during LGBTQ Pride month in June. However, after efforts by Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea), Gender Justice League, the Mayor's LGBTQ Task Force, and other organizations, the community and SPD are working more closely than they have in the past. Incidents still happen, but more and more LGBTQ community members than ever are reporting crimes, and many of them are being solved.

Data from the SPD's website on bias crimes show that during the first half of 2016, 128 criminal and noncriminal bias-based incidents were reported to the department. This compared to 102 bias-based incidents reported in the second half of 2015. That means there was a 25.5% increase citywide.

The category of 'crimes with bias elements' rose 44%. 'Malicious harassment' cases increased by 11%, and 'bias incidents' rose 28%. Reported anti-Gay and anti-Lesbian crimes rose 45% from the second half of 2015.

Reported incidents were spread fairly evenly across second and third watches. The East Precinct had the most incidents, accounting for 30.5% of the total number citywide, followed by the North Precinct at 27.3% and the West Precinct at 25.8%. The South Precinct reported 8.5% of the incidents, followed by the Southwest Precinct at 7.8%.

The good news is that the SPD does actively investigate cases when it believes a bias crime has occurred. According to the SPD, 17 people were arrested in 50 malicious harassment crimes: nine people were arrested and/or charged with a felony crime, and eight people were arrested and/or charged with a misdemeanor offense. Five cases were 'cleared exceptional' (the victim did not want to press charges), and three cases were inactivated or administratively cleared due to solvability or other factors.

The data also show that during the second half of 2016, 128 criminal and noncriminal bias-based incidents were reported to the Seattle Police Department. This compared to 103 bias-based incidents reported in the second half of 2015. The data reflects a 24% increase overall.

'Malicious harassment' cases decreased by 13%, 'crimes with bias elements' rose 62%, and noncriminal 'bias incidents' rose 50%.

Nearly half of all reported incidents occurred during second watch hours, followed by first watch, then third watch. The West Precinct had the most incidents at 33% of the total number citywide, followed by the East Precinct at 25%, the North Precinct at 17%, the South Precinct at 13%, and the Southwest Precinct at 13%.

According to the SPD, 25 people were arrested for malicious Harassment and crimes with bias elements: 10 were arrested and/or charged with a felony crime, and 15 were arrested and/or charged with a misdemeanor offense. Two cases were 'cleared exceptional' (the victim did not want to press charges), and 53 cases were inactivated or administratively cleared due to solvability or other factors without being assigned.

Resources for victims of crime
Victims are encouraged to call 9-1-1 if an incident is in progress, or (206) 625-5011 (the nonemergency line) if you believe you have been a victim.

If you do not get the service that you think you should receive from the SPD or you would like to know the status of the investigation into the crime you reported, contact Social Outreach Seattle (SOSea) at socialoutreachseattle@gmail.com and they will advocate for you. Or write a message to SPD LGBTQ Liaison Officer Jim Ritter by filling out the form at www.SPDSAFEPLACE.com. Although you are encouraged to identify yourself, the form can be filled out anonymously.

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