Wilfred Reilly, author of the book Hate Crime Hoax: How the Left is Selling a Fake Race War, has investigated the extraordinary and frightening claims by the Seattle Times that hate crimes and “incidents” in that city were up an astonishing 400% since 2012.
In the immortal words of Defense Secretary Albert Nimziiki from Independence Day, “That’s not entirely accurate.”
An examination of the Seattle data indicates that fewer than 40 actual criminal cases resulting from real, serious hate incidents were successfully prosecuted between 2012 and 2017. This provides an excellent case study of how media coverage of flash-point issues such as hate crime can—whether intentionally or not—sensationalize and exaggerate the urgency of social problems.
“Sensationalize and exaggerate”? Sounds familiar.
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.
“Hate crime” is a politically charged term. But the Seattle Times uses it in a scare headline to describe interactions between people that, while mean and nasty, are in no way, shape, or form to be considered a “crime” much less a “hate crime.”
The deeper you look at these stats, the more ridiculous it gets.
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.
Accusing a homeless, crazy person of a “hate crime” is ludicrous. But when you’re a liberal newspaper trying to gin up fear and outrage, it’s considered “good reporting.”
The exaggeration of “hate crimes” isn’t confined to Seattle. National hate crime statistics have also seen a big increase and the rise is, of course, attributed to Donald Trump.
But is it, really?
For example, one of the most widespread claims is that the number of reported hate crime incidents increased nationally by roughly 1,000 between 2016 and 2017, a 17 percent increase that often is casually attributed to Donald Trump. A representative 2018 CNN piece, for instance, was headlined “Hate Crimes Increase by 17% in 2017, FBI Report Finds,” and opened with an in-set video featuring a former white supremacist discussing today’s charged “political climate.”
The reason is simple: there are a thousand more agencies and police departments actually reporting hate crimes.
Reality proves to be more complex and mundane. One reason for the increase in reported bias crime between 2016 and 2017 turns out to be the fact that roughly 1,000 additional law-enforcement agencies contributed hate-crime data to the FBI in 2017. As one newspaper pointed out, each of these newly reporting departments would each have had to report an average of only about one hate crime annually to account for the full increase. There may well be no surge in hate crimes at all.
And the record of prosecuting hate crimes is abysmal.
Nationally, convictions in hate crime cases are also rare. Figures from California, the largest state by population, indicate that 931 felony and misdemeanor hate crimes were reported to police in 2016. However, only 307 (33 percent) of those cases resulted in the identification of a suspect and referral to a prosecutor, of which 220 (24 percent) resulted in the filing of criminal charges, with only 51 (5.5 percent) resulting in a hate-crime conviction—about one per week. Another source, the eminently reliable Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, pegs the federal hate crime conviction rate at 11 percent: The Justice Department has received 270 bias-crime cases since 2009, and obtained convictions in only 29 of them. One obvious reason for this low conviction rate is that many supposed hate crimes are probable hoaxes—and those which are not hoaxes often turn out to be un-prosecutable incidents of anonymous graffiti or shouted slurs.