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Hate crimes dramatically on the rise in Washington state

The Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood was tagged with anti-Semitic graffiti in March 2017. (KIRO 7)

Hate crimes reported in Washington state shot up by 32 percent last year, according to the most recent data from the FBI.

The FBI’s latest national crime statistics note that crimes in the United States were up by 17 percent in 2017. That same data set points out that Washington’s hate crimes went up 32 percent. Per capita, Washington had the third-highest reported hate crimes.

George Salim with the Anti-Defamation League told KIRO 7 that “this uptick, one of the largest upticks in the history of hate crime reporting, gives us and other civil rights organizations grave concern.”

The FBI reports 234 suspected hate crimes in Seattle over 2017 — compared to 118 in 2016. More than half reported were racially motivated. In Washington state, 72 agencies reported a total of 510 hate crimes over the year.

Race-related hate crimes far outweighed other reported crimes in the state — 323. There were 88 crimes related to a person’s religion, and 79 related to sexual orientation. There were 16 reports related to a person’s gender identity.

Of the cities reporting the hate crimes:

  • Bellevue: 11 race related; 4 religious; 1 gender identity
  • Bellingham: 9 race related: 1 sexual orientation; 1 gender
  • Everett: 5 race related; 1 sexual orientation
  • Kent: 13 race related; 2 religious
  • Spokane: 22 race related; 2 religious; 3 sexual orientation; 1 gender
  • Spokane Valley: 9 race related; 3 religious; 2 sexual orientation
  • Tacoma: 7 race related; 1 religious

Hate crimes are also referred to as bias crimes. They have been reportedly on the rise in Western Washington over the past couple of years. An assault on Burien’s mayor was investigated as such a crime. In March of 2017, the Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood was tagged with Nazi symbols and rhetoric amid a string of bomb threats, fires, and other incidents against religious congregations. Senior Rabbi Daniel Weiner told KIRO Radio at the time that he’s seen a handful of such incidents in the past, but he noted that there had been a change over the last couple of years.

“I think there is a tone that has been set in our nation that empowers those who previously were quietly shamed into the margins, and now they feel newly empowered, and feel they have new license to express these toxic views – perhaps out of ethnic pride, but certainly out of a desire to bully the most vulnerable in our society,” Weiner said.

Seattle’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael F. Paul released this statement Tuesday:

The FBI’s Seattle Field Office serves a diverse community. In the wake of the tragic events in Pittsburgh that impacted the nation, we want to assure Washingtonians that their safety and civil rights are a top priority. When incidents targeting protected groups occur in our community, we perform timely and meticulous reviews to determine whether bias was a motivating factor and if violation(s) of federal law occurred. We continue to work diligently, in close collaboration with our law enforcement partners, to counter the intentions of those who seek to threaten, intimidate, or harm our community via bias-motivated crimes.

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