In the past several years hate crimes have increased in King County, and whenever we have evidence of bias motivated crimes against members of our community we will continue to hold perpetrators responsible.
Of the 224 hate crimes filed between 2018 and today, there is clear data for 184 of them. Our office is working to enter data on the remaining cases. A case can have multiple types of hateful acts or involve multiple anti-bias acts. That’s why there are 184 of 224 cases with clear, entered data:
· Hate crimes against someone’s race or ethnicity is the most common (4 so far in 2022 and 103 from 2018 through 2021. That’s based on the 184 number though 224 cases have been charged overall.)
· Hates crimes against someone’s sexual orientation is the second most common type of hate crime (1 cases charged so far this year, 40 cases from 2018–2021. Again, that’s based on the 184 number though more cases have been charged overall.)
· Hate crimes against someone’s gender or gender expression is the third most common category: 1 case so far in 2022, 21 cases since 2018. (Based on the 184 number of 224 overall charged hate crime cases.)
· Hates crimes against someone’s national origin happened in 13 cases from 2018–2021, including four cases in 2021. (Based on the 184 number of 224 overall charged hate crime cases.)
Of the anti-race/ethnicity hate crimes, anti-Black hate crimes are the most common.
· Of the charged hate crimes between 2019 and so far in 2022 with clear data, 62 of those were anti-Black hate crimes, including 10 in 2021.
· 16 of those cases were anti-Asian hate crimes, including 7 in 2021. (Based on the 184 cases with data entered, though 224 have been charged overall.)
How a hate crime goes from a police report to a criminal charge
In order to charge a case, a hate crime needs to be reported to police, then referred to an investigating detective. The next step is the completed investigation — which by law is handled separately from our office — needs to be referred to prosecutors who can charge it after an independent review of the evidence. That’s why there’s a difference between the number of cases reported and the number of cases charged by prosecutors. There are many steps before a case gets to us, and we are obligated to charge only the cases that we believe we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
Hate crimes are unique in that we have to prove the motive beyond a reasonable doubt at the time the case is charged. When we can prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt, we charge that hate crime. If we don’t have that evidence, we explain to the investigating detective what we’d need to be able to prove the case.
Our charging decisions are not statements against victims and their feelings — they’re based on what we’re able to prove in court. There have been cases where a victim or victim’s family believes the incident was a hate crime, but with the limited evidence we have from investigators we are unable to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt. In those cases, where there is sufficient evidence to charge another crime, we’ve charged the attacks as the otherwise appropriate crime (typically, assault or harassment).
Sentence ranges are set by state lawmakers, and in some cases the felony assault crimes that we’ve charged carry a longer sentence than would a hate crime conviction. A hate crime is designated as a Class C felony by state lawmakers, the lowest level of felony crimes — and that’s something our office would like to see changed.