In addition to the physical, emotional, and psychological injuries of victims, hate crimes also cause humiliation and arouse fears in targeted groups. And if hate crimes are not addressed, they have the potential to endanger the lives of innocent citizens.Hate crimes include all types of crime where the offender is motivated by specific characteristics of the victim, including the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. Whether the crime is a violent crime or a property crime, offenders generally provide some evidence that hate prompted their actions.
Currently, 45 states have hate crime statutes that differ in their categorization of protected groups, crimes covered, and penalties for offenders. Many states and large cities have hate crime task forces that coordinate across different levels of government and work with community organizations to collect data. However, it is difficult to estimate accurately the prevalence of hate crimes, given the varying statutes and the uneven data collection across jurisdictions.
In 1990, Congress passed the Hate Crime and Statistics Act requiring the Department of Justice to collect hate crime data. More recently, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in response to the brutal murders of Matthew Shepard and James A. Byrd because of their sexual orientation and race, respectively. The act expands existing federal law on hate crimes to include crimes motivated by a victim’s gender, sexual orientation, or disability.
What OJP Is Doing
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) funds the National Crime Victimization Survey, which is the primary source of information on criminal victimization nationally. It is the largest national forum for victims to describe the impact of crime and the characteristics of violent offenders, and it includes data on hate crimes. These data were used to compile the special report, Hate Crime Reported by Victims and Police.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) commissioned a report in 2005 on hate crime literature and legislation. The report, and the subsequent meeting with experts, identified gaps in hate crime research and called for developing a federal repository of hate crime information to address the inconsistencies in definitions and data collection.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) supports police and prosecutorial agencies in responding to hate crimes. BJA funds many anti-hate crime projects, including a training initiative about bias crimes for law enforcement agencies. BJA has partnered with the Simon Wiesenthal Center for over a decade to develop and offer Tools for Tolerance training sessions. More than 90,000 law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals have participated in the training.
The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has developed a standardized victim impact curriculum titled Victim Impact: Listen and Learn for corrections services. The curriculum focuses on helping offenders understand the impact of crime on their victims through personal stories and aims to alter offender thinking and behavior. Offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions and recognize how their actions have affected the lives of others.
Principal Deputy Assistant
National Conference on Victim
Assistance, September 2010
- Only 44 percent of hate crimes are reported to the police.
- More than 80 percent of hate crimes were associated with violent crimes—a rape or other sexual assault, robbery, or assault.
- Between 2000 and 2003, an annual average of 191,000 hate crime incidents were reported by victims.
- An estimated 3 percent of all violent crimes were perceived to be hate crimes by the victims.
- Nearly 50 percent of hate crimes in 2009 were motivated by race.
- Of the 6,604 hate crime incidents reported to police in 2009, 1,700 involved intimidation.
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