Legislation that aims to establish a hate crime reporting hotline unanimously passed Aug. 31 in the King County Council’s Law and Justice Committee.
Reported hate crimes have been on an upward trend across the nation since 2020, and King County is no different.
Council staff member Mike Reed said hate crime charge filings increased in the county significantly during 2020 with 59 cases overall, up by 20 from the year before. He said Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders as well as Black residents have been the most common victims in these cases, but many other hate incidents are believed to go unreported and unaddressed.
King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn said his proposed Ordinance 2021-0205 is intended to address the unreported hate crimes by understanding the barriers to reporting and by increasing access to victims. Dunn said hate crimes and incidents go unreported because ethnic minorities may hold distrust in law enforcement, and certain groups like immigrants may even be afraid of reporting hate incidents due to fear of retribution.
The ordinance will direct a workgroup to develop a plan for establishing the hotline and a web portal in the appropriate format, with an adequate agency host and to plan a public awareness campaign so people know about the new resources.
The workgroup will include representatives from the Department of Community and Human Services, the King County Sheriff’s Office, prosecutors, public health officials and community organizations, with an outlined deadline of implementation established during 2022.
Dunn said he intends for anonymous reporting to be allowed through the web portal and hotline, and for the resources to be able to refer victims to services such as trauma counseling. In addition, $150,000 had already been set aside by the council’s past supplementary budget specifically for this program.
The council will revisit the legislation for a final vote in the coming weeks.