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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 22, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 38
SPD releases Bias Crimes Report for first half of 2017
Section One
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SPD releases Bias Crimes Report for first half of 2017

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle Police Department released its semiannual report September 12 detailing bias crimes and incidents for the first half of 2017.

According to the report, during this time, a total of 178 criminal and non-criminal bias based incidents were reported. That number is up from the 128 incidents reported at the same time last year.

Seattle Police Department public affairs says the increase in reports can be attributed in large part to victims feeling more comfortable reporting bias crimes due to enhanced trust, improved reporting mechanisms and ongoing community outreach by the Department.

'SPD continues to be a national leader in investigating and reporting bias crimes as well as outreach to communities experiencing these acts,' said Chief of Police, Kathleen O'Toole. 'In the spirit of transparency and accountability we continue to release these reports letting the community know that the Department works hard every day to make sure our most vulnerable victims are heard and we pursue the justice they deserve.'

Here is what SPD says about the latest bias crimes data:

o Bias crimes often occur between complete strangers and take victims by surprise. Many of them are property crimes committed anonymously under the cover of darkness.

o The Seattle Police Department's clearance rate for these incidents is 39%.

o Many of these arrests are made by patrol officers arriving on the scene soon after an incident has occurred. Detectives work hard to locate suspects not found at the time of the incident.

o 13 cases from this period remain open and may be cleared by arrest.

Over the past few months the Seattle Police Department's Bias Crime Coordinator partnered with community organizations to reach out to some of Seattle's most vulnerable populations. In particular, refugee and immigrant populations were a focus for outreach during this period.

Seattle Police officials say that the Information from the report has been distributed in 18 different languages describing how to report a crime.

The highest rate of increase in reporting is in the category of crimes with bias elements, which are incidents which are not primarily motivated by bias, but bias language is used during the commission of a crime. These incidents went up 64%.

On a good note, SPD has observed that both officers and the community recognize and report bias when they observe it.

'The first half of 2017 was characterized by a high level of interest in the community regarding hate crimes, as evidenced by the high rate of reporting in Seattle. I was contacted many times by people wanting to report incidents they had witnessed, or asking how they could help if they were to see someone being victimized,' said Detective Beth Wareing, Bias Crimes Coordinator. 'We rely on the community to stay involved and aware for our efforts in combating hate crimes to be successful. The community is our most valuable partner.'

'SPD has adopted a number of best practices with regards to hate crime prevention, response and reporting,' said Dr. Jack McDevitt, Director of Institute on Race and Justice, at Northeastern University and a leading expert in bias crimes. 'The Department has made numerous efforts toward improving both the data collection and reporting of bias crimes incidents. This data is not only collected, but analyzed monthly, a rarity in law enforcement.'

According to the report, the demographic most impacted by bias crimes during the first half of 2017 is the black community. Among blacks in Seattle, there were 12 malicious harassment reports, 22 crimes with bias element, and 11 non-criminal bias incidents.

This year, SPD broke up the report into the different demographics of the LGBTQ community. Lesbian and Gay men were the second most targeted group of Seattleites to report bias crimes. Among Lesbian and Gay men, 19 malicious harassment reports were made, 17 crimes with bias elements, and 11 non-criminal bias crimes were reported.

Transgender folks were the 5th community of people that experienced bias crimes in the first half of 2017. There were 5 malicious harassments reported, 3 crimes with bias elements reported and 4 non-criminal bias crimes reported.

There was only 1 reported malicious harassment report made by a member of the gender non-conforming community. And equally, 1 report made for crimes with bias element.

If you've been a victim or witnessed a bias crime, SPD encourages you to call 911 immediately.

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