The King County Council on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022 unanimously approved legislation that will create a new community-based Stop Hate Hotline and online portal, expanding reporting access to victims of hate crimes.

Councilmember Reagan Dunn’s proposal comes as a response to a surge in hate crimes across King County since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we are to more fully respond to the unprecedented surge in hate crimes we’ve seen in King County, we need to provide more pathways for victims of these dehumanizing crimes to report them,” Dunn said. “Without boosting reporting rates, we only allow crimes of hate and bias to proliferate — and no one in King County should live in threat of retaliation or even danger due to their race, religion, beliefs, appearance, or any other differences that exist among us.”

The new hotline and web-based reporting options build on the work of the King County Coalition Against Hate and Bias, which gathers data on hate crime incidents through its Hate and Bias Incident Response Survey. That survey has reported 560 hate crime incidents since its formation in mid-2020.

The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has also found that since the start of the pandemic, reported hate crimes have surged significantly above the pre-COVID average, peaking at a 157% increase in filed hate crime cases in February 2021. Despite this rise in filed hate crime cases, incidents of hate crime are known to be significantly underreported.

Dunn’s legislation also tasks King County with initiating an awareness campaign to share information with the public on how to report a hate crime.

With today’s approval, King County will begin developing a plan to implement the Stop Hate Hotline and web portal. This effort will be led by King County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice in partnership with the Coalition Against Hate and Bias and the Department of Community and Health Services.

The workgroup will convene by Nov. 1, 2022 and deliver its plan for the reporting system and awareness campaign to the King County Council by May 2, 2023.