Olympia—Hate crimes in the U.S. are on the rise, and our state is no exception. Alarming data shows that hate crimes in Washington state have reached the highest level in more than two decades. Even then, the true number of these incidents is likely significantly underreported due to distrust in law enforcement, fear of retaliation, inaccurate reporting and language barriers.

Sen. Javier Valdez (D-Seattle) has introduced legislation that would create a support system for victims of hate crimes and bias incidents.

“It takes all of us to fight hate,” said Valdez. “Not only do we need to stand against these hate crimes, we also need to provide support and resources to help the victims in a meaningful way.”

SB 5427 would establish a hotline administered by the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) for reporting these incidents. The hotline would accept reports of hate crimes and bias incidents and provide appropriate crisis intervention and information that is victim-centered, culturally competent, and trauma-informed. These services would be accessible to as many Washington state residents as possible, regardless of the language they speak.

Under this bill, the AGO would also be required to develop a standardized process to collect, analyze and regularly report information related to these incidents to the governor, Senate and House of Representatives.  The collected data would also need to be made publicly available after redacting personally identifiable information for the protection and safety of the victims.

Additionally, this legislation would establish a program to compensate people targeted or affected by hate crimes for the damages or losses those crimes cause.

“We can and must do more to ensure the safety of our communities. I am committed to leading this approach to fight hate and help those who have been victims of hate and bias,” said Valdez.

This proposal has already received ample support in the state Senate, with 15 senators signed on as co-sponsors in addition to Valdez.