Understanding Hate Crimes

Hate and bias-based crimes are typically underreported. This can be for a lot of reasons embarrassment, feeling like it's just part of life or the fear that the police will not take their incident seriously. 

We want to control what we can and alleviate that last fear.  The Seattle Police will treat you and your incident with care, dignity, and respect. 

The Safe Place Program was created to start bridging that gap between victims of hate crimes and the police to take that first step in letting the world know where this department stands on hate and bias crimes. 

We are dedicated to supporting quality public safety and being a full partner with other parts of the criminal justice system and assisting witnesses and crime victims throughout the process and delivering respectful police services by treating people the way you want to be treated. 

The Definition of Hate Crimes

Although the term, "Hate Crimes", is the most frequently used term throughout the U.S., the true definitions may differ depending on the jurisdiction and/or state you reside in.  In the State of Washington, the correct term is Malicious Harassment.

In Seattle, there are three bias-related categories that are documented on police reports Malicious Harassment, Crimes with a bias Element, and Bias Incident. 

Malicious Harassment encompasses verbal and/or written threats of assault, robbery, property damage, or actual assaults, property damage, robbery, etc., primarily directed at the victim because of the suspect's perception of the victim's race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, religion, or any other factors listed by law which is the primary reason for the threats, assaults and/or property damage and a report should be made.  Call 911 immediately and advise the dispatcher of what happened, you believe it was bias or a hate crime what was said and done, any injuries you have, and a description and direction of travel of the suspect(s).  If safe to do so, remain at the scene until police arrive or notify the 911 operator of your new location.  State law: RCW 9A.36.080  or Seattle Municipal Code: SMC 12A.16.115

Crimes with Bias Elements occurs when the victim is threatened, assaulted, robbed, has their property damaged, etc., by a suspect when, during the commission of the crime, any comments are made directly and/or indirectly that relate to the suspect's perception of the victim's race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, religion, etc. that appears to be a secondary motivation for the crime.  The victim should follow the same protocol in calling 911 and reporting the incident. 

Bias Incidents are non-criminal situations that do not fall within the above-listed categories, where a subject uses/directs offensive words at an individual and/or group during constitutionally protected free speech that the recipient(s) considers offensive AND does not accompany those words with direct threats and/or actions.   

You do not need to know what category your incident belongs in to report a hate crime. 

Call 911 if you are the victim of a crime.


Adrian Diaz, Chief of Police
Address: 610 5th Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98104-1900
Mailing Address: PO Box 34986, Seattle, WA, 98124-4986
Phone: (206) 625-5011
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The Seattle Police Department (SPD) prevents crime, enforces laws, and supports quality public safety by delivering respectful, professional, and dependable police services. SPD operates within a framework that divides the city into five geographical areas called "precincts".

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