Understanding Hate Crimes

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 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 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. 

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, or would like to report your incident to the police.  Or you can use our online form to remain anonymous.