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Hate crimes decline in Federal Way and Washington state

Hate crimes are on the decrease across the nation and locally, but noticeable trends persist.

On Nov. 22, the FBI released Hate Crime Statistics for 2009. According to the document, 1,379 fewer hate crime offenses were reported in 2009 than in 2008.

Similar results were seen statewide, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) Crime in Washington 2009 report. Per the 1990 passage of the hate crime statistics Act, state law enforcement agencies report hate crimes to the WASPC. The data is included in WASPC's annual crime report and forwarded to the FBI for inclusion in national statistics. Neither agency analyzes the data due to fluctuations in the number of participating law enforcement agencies. Due to this, it's hard to say why the decrease took place and what it signifies.

Hate crime

A crime is labeled as a hate crime if a law enforcement investigation concludes it was a result of bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability. In Washington state, gender is also included on that list. A hate crime is not a separate offense, according to WASPC. Rather, traditional crimes are labeled by law enforcement agencies as hate crimes if the agency believes the offender's actions were motivated, at least in part, by bias. A hate crime incident may involve more than one offense, victim or offender, according to WASPC.

By the numbers

Nationwide, 6,604 criminal incidents, accounting for 7,789 hate crime offenses, were reported by 14,422 law enforcement agencies in 2009, according to the FBI. A total of 8,336 victims and 6,225 offenders were documented, according to the agency. In 2008, 7,783 hate crime incidents involving 9,168 offenses were reported by 13,690 agencies, according to hate crime statistics from 2008.

Washington state saw a decrease in the number of hate crimes, victims and offenders. A total of 262 law enforcement agencies documented 211 bias motivated crimes, in which 292 separate offenses took place, according to WASPC's Crime in Washington 2009 report. This reflects an 11 percent drop in the crimes compared to 2008, according to the report. The number of hate crime victims in 2009, 312, decreased by 7 percent. The number of known offenders (179) dropped 15 percent, according to WASPC's report.

In 2009, Federal Way police categorized five crimes as hate crimes. One incident was a simple assault, according to WASPC's report. Another involved intimidation and three more hate crimes included the destruction, damage or vandalism of property. One hate crime has been documented this year, police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said.

Biases

Intimidation was widely used in most of the 2009 hate crimes. Nationally, 45 percent of bias-based crimes involved intimidation. Statewide, 143 hate crimes included intimidation, marking a 5.9 percent increase in the use of this method, according to the WASPC report. Simple assaults accounted for 35.3 percent of bias motivated crimes nationwide. Aggravated assaults were associated with 19.1 percent of the cases. Other offenses, including nine forcible rapes and eight murders, accounted for the remainder, according to the FBI.

Both nationally and locally, 2009's hate crimes were primarily spurred by four biases. Just under half (48.5 percent) of the nation's bias-based crimes were motivated by a racial bias, 19.7 percent were motivated by a religious bias, 18.5 percent were motivated by a bias against the victim's sexual orientation and 11.8 percent were spurred by an offender's bias against a victim's ethnicity/national origin. Bias against a disability accounted for 1.5 percent of incidents, according to FBI data.

Washington saw similar trends. The majority (57.4 percent) of the incidents were in relation to a victim's race. Another 17 percent were initiated due to the victim's sexual orientation. Religious bias accounted for 14.9 percent of the hate crimes reported to WASPC in 2009. Ethnic bias prompted 8.9 percent of the crimes, according to the report.

The crimes primarily occurred in homes, on public roadways, in schools and in places of worship, according to the FBI and WASPC.

Learn more

• View WASPC Crime in Washington reports dating back to 1995 at www.waspc.org/index.php?c=Crime%20Statistics.

• View the FBI's hate crime statistics from 2009 at www2.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2009/index.html.

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