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King County to create new hotline for victims of hate crime

Sept. 28, 2022 Updated Wed., Sept. 28, 2022 at 8:17 p.m.

By Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks Seattle Times

King County will create a new community-based, hate-crime hotline to help victims access services more easily, and to improve the county’s data collection on reported crimes motivated by hate and bias.

The Stop Hate Hotline is intended to serve as a non-law enforcement reporting system that allows victims to get help through an online portal or on the phone. King County allocated $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funding last year toward the creation of the reporting system.

The Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved the proposal during its Tuesday meeting.

Victims or family of victims who call the hotline or report a case online will be directed by an operator to community groups and agencies offering culturally sensitive counseling or trauma-informed care.

The county will also use the hotline to track incidents of hate- and bias-motivated crimes that may not necessarily be reported to law enforcement.

“If you go online to report a hate crime in Seattle, you have to go a long ways down before you reach nonprofit (services),” Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who sponsored the proposal, previously told the Seattle Times. “First it’s police, then it’s the FBI reporting hotline.”

Some neighborhood and community organizations already run helplines or provide care for victims of hate crimes, such as the Chinese Information and Service Center. But the county hotline could triage calls from residents unsure who or where to turn for resources, Dunn previously told the Times.

In 2020, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed 49 cases involving hate crimes, compared to 36 cases the previous year. Last year, the office filed 37 cases, and 14 cases have been filed so far this year.

In addition, the county’s Coalition Against Hate and Bias, formed in 2020 to address the rise in hate crimes, recorded nearly 550 incidents over the last two years through its Hate and Bias Incident Response Survey.

According to a report from Seattle Police Department analyzing those incidents, about 55% of cases were motivated by anti-Black bias, about 10% against Asians, 9% against Latinos and 2% against Arabs, said Shikū Wainaina, a member of the coalition, during Tuesday’s meeting.

Community advocates and experts estimate far more crimes motivated by hate or bias are occurring than those figures suggest. Many incidents go unreported, as some victims are distrustful of law enforcement, fear retribution from the attacker, or may be unsure about or uninterested in reporting.

Building on the efforts of the coalition, the county will now create a work group to begin public outreach, identify successful strategies, and finalize details on the hotline to ensure “any new resources or systems developed are trauma-informed, culturally responsive, accessible and effective as defined by communities experiencing racist incidents and identity-based violence,” said coalition member Debbie Lacy, founder of the social justice community organization Eastside for All, during the Tuesday meeting.

A progress report on the workgroup’s efforts will be released by May.

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