Hate Crimes Facts
Hate Crimes Facts

40 Important Facts about Hate Crimes

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published March 27, 2018
  • Hate crime legislation in the United States differs widely from state to state, but hate crimes are, succinctly, crimes motivated by animus toward members of a specific group or demographic.[10]
  • The concept of a hate crime emerged in the late 1970s in the United States. Hate crime legislation became a widespread phenomenon in the 1980s, when various state lawmakers began classifying racially motivated crimes as a distinct form of crime.[10][11]
  • Many countries have followed the United States in adopting hate crime laws, or near equivalents, including Great Britain, Australia, Canada, and Germany.[11]
  • Statistically, blacks, Jews, and gay men are the most common targets of hate crimes.[7]
  • The 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act expanded the federal definition of a hate crime to include crimes motivated by bias against disability, gender, gender identification, or sexual orientation.[9]
  • Most hate crimes that occur in the United States do not involve physical violence. In 2015, only 1/3 of all reported cases were violent crimes.[7]
  • Proponents of hate crime legislation argue that hate crimes differ from other crimes in that the violence is intended to send a message of intimidation to the victim’s entire community.[10]
  • Critics of hate crime legislation argue that hate crime laws violate the equal protection that is guaranteed by the Constitution; such legislation indicates that victims of “protected classes” are of greater value than other victims by punishing their perpetrators to a greater extent.[3]
  • Although the existence of hate-based organizations has increased in recent years, the number of actual hate crimes committed has not, leading some to believe that hate crime laws do not deter Americans from bias and that hate crimes are largely not being committed by those who engage in hateful speech.[3]
  • Hate Crimes Racism
    Balancing the needs of historically underrepresented groups with abstract justice is a delicate matter
  • In 2004, the Georgia Supreme Court declared Georgia’s hate crimes law unconstitutional, because, while it “by no means [condoned] conduct motivated by a bigoted or hate-filled point of view,” the law was written so vaguely that it would be possible to “prosecute a sports fan for picking on somebody wearing a rival team’s cap.”[8]
  • United States hate crime laws are largely based on a model law drafted by the Anti-Defamation League in 1981.[4]
  • Hate crimes are also referred to as “bias-motivated” crimes.[1]
  • In 2016, law enforcement agencies reported 6,121 bias-motivated crimes or incidents. The motivating prejudices included race, gender and gender identification, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation.[1]
  • Of 15,254 law enforcement agencies reporting to an FBI hate crimes commission in 2016, only 1,176 reported incidents of hate-motivated crimes in their jurisdictions.[1]
  • Hate Crimes Fact
  • Of the 6,121 incidents of bias-motivated crime reported in 2016, 57.5% were racially motivated, 21% percent were crimes motivated by animosity towards members of a particular religion, and 17.7% were motivated by bias against sexual orientation.[1]
  • Of the known hate crimes committed in 2016, only 0.2% (nine cases) were murders.[2]
  • Opponents of hate crime legislation often argue that the problem with such laws is that the perpetrators are not being punished for what they have actually done, but for the intangible motivations behind their actions. This, they claim, is dangerous in that it casts the state in the role of a moral inquisitor.[14]
  • In 2016, 4,353 hate crimes were committed as crimes against persons, 1,618 were crimes against property, and 82 were crimes against society (crimes such as weapons possessions and gambling violations).[2]
  • The first federal hate crime statute was signed into law in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson. The law made it a federal crime to use or threaten to use force against a person participating in a federally protected activity (such as jury duty or public education) because of bias against their race or ethnicity.[9]
  • Of the hate crimes committed in 2016, for which the race of the offenders was reported, 46.3% were committed by whites and 26.1% were committed by blacks.[2]
  • Currently, there are five states that do not have hate crime laws: Wyoming, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Indiana.[3]
  • The 1996 Church Arson Prevention Act made it a crime to damage religious property because of the race or ethnicity associated with the religion.[9]
  • In the seven years since the creation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the United States Justice Department has charged 258 defendants with hate crimes covered by this act.[9]
  • Hate Crimes Intimidation
    Hate crimes harm more than just the victim; they are often tools of intimidation aimed at a whole community
  • In 2016, six in ten victims of hate crimes were targeted because of bias toward their race or ethnicity. Of the remaining victims, many were targeted because of their religion, particularly Jews and Muslims. One in six were targeted because of their sexual orientation.[5]
  • In Oregon, crimes committed through bias against union members or because of someone’s social status are punishable as hate crimes.[13]
  • Opponents of hate crime legislation worry that such laws are an extreme form of forcing “political correctness” on others and add punishments to criminals who display a lack of such “correctness.”[14]
  • Some opponents of hate crime legislation argue that the enhanced penalties called for by such laws violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, because these penalties are a second punishment: the perpetrator is punished once for the act, and then given a second punishment for the intention behind the act.[3]
  • Twice in 2015, people were found to have painted slurs upon and then burned down their own buildings. Only after further investigation were the supposed hate crimes found to be hoaxes.[3]
  • Although hate crime legislation is less than fifty years old, crimes motivated by bias are as old as humanity itself. History is rife with such examples, from the Roman persecution of Christians to the African slave trade.[3]
  • Hate Crimes Ancient
    Emperor Nero used live Christians as "human torches"

  • Hate crime laws are often criticized on First Amendment grounds, as punishing someone for their beliefs or message rather than their actions.[12][14]
  • The first major dispute about the constitutionality of hate crime laws to be brought before the Supreme Court was a 1992 case from Minnesota, where a group of white teenagers burned a cross on the lawn of a black family. The Supreme Court ruled against Minnesota’s bias-crime law, which called for greater punishment for crimes involving racist messages, stating that such laws violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.[14]
  • Only one year after the Supreme Court ruled against a bias-crime penalty in a Minnesota case (in which the perpetrator was white), it upheld additional penalty for the assault by a group of black men on a white youth. The Court argued that because the motive for the assault was based upon biased views, and because motive is an element of crime rather than mere speech, motives based upon bias could be punished to a greater extent.[15]
  • One major complaint leveled by hate crime legislation critics is that by singling out certain “protected classes,” these laws actually create a system whereby all are not equal under the law; opponents say all human beings should be treated as equally protected.[12]
  • Oregon was the first state to pass hate crime legislation into law, in 1981.[3]
  • Hate crime legislation generally involves increasing the penalties for a crime motivated by bias. For example, in New York, a person who committed assault would earn seven years in prison, but if the crime is classified as a hate crime, the penalty increases to 15 years. Proponents of these increased penalties argue that such increases will deter crimes motivated by bias and thereby increase tolerance among the populace.[3]
  • The majority of crimes committed in the United States involve perpetrators and victims of the same race, and hence are not generally considered potential hate crimes.[3]
  • Hate Crime Jury
    Assessing intent is often a very difficult business
  • It is often difficult to prove that a given crime was, in fact, a hate-motivated crime. For instance, a white man who shot three Muslims over a parking dispute in North Carolina in 2015 was not charged with a hate crime because of the impossibility of proving that bias was his motive.[3]
  • In Florida, hate crime legislation was expanded to include the homeless as a protected class, due to the commission of several assaults against homeless individuals there.[3]
  • Critics of hate crime legislation say that such laws exacerbate, rather than alleviate, social divisions based upon race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.[3]
  • In 2015, two men who urinated on and then beat a Hispanic homeless man cited President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration language as their motivation for the attack.[6]
  • Eye-Opening Hate Crime Facts INFOGRAPHIC
    Hate Infographic thumbnail

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