A look through the data that has been made available from Seattle’s office of the City Auditor reveals that there is little basis for panic. First, most of the situations contained in the 500-plus documented incidents for 2018 turned out not to be hate crimes at all. Out of 521 confrontations or other incidents reported to the police at some point during the year, 181 (35 percent) were deemed insufficiently serious to qualify as crimes of any kind. Another 215 (41 percent) turned out to involve some minor element of bias (i.e., an ethnic slur used during a fight), but did not rise to the definition of hate crime. Only 125, or 24 percent, qualified as potential hate crimes—i.e., alleged “criminal incidents directly motivated by bias.” For purposes of comparison: There are 745,000 people living in Seattle, and 3.5-million in the metro area.
Even that 125 figure represents an overestimate, at least as compared to what most of us imagine to be the stereotypical hate crime (of, say, a gang of white racists beating up someone of a different skin color). Seattle’s remarkably broad municipal hate-crime policies cover not only attacks motivated by racial or sexual animus, but also those related to “homelessness, marital status, political ideology, age and parental status.”
Indeed, if there is a single archetypal Seattle hate incident that emerges from this data, it would seem to involve a mentally ill homeless man yelling slurs at someone. According to the City Auditor, 22 percent of hate perps were “living unsheltered” at the time of their crime, 20 percent were mentally ill, and 20 percent were severely intoxicated.