June 13, 2011
Hate Crimes 2
Crime is crime right? Wrong……there is a difference between crime (an unlawful act punishable by a state) and a hate crime; a hate crime is a traditional criminal offense like murder, arson, invasion of privacy or vandalism with an added element of bias towards a federally protected class of people (Ickes & Kenworthy, 2013). Hate crimes are based on or motivated by elements such as gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, age or disability (Ickes & Kenworthy, 2013). Hate crimes may include property crimes (like robbery), threats, harassment, intimidation or actual acts of physical violence such as physical assault, battery, sexual assault, rape, torture, attempted murder or murder (Liberman, 2010). Hate itself is not a crime; law enforcement entities are dedicated to protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.
Hate crimes are unique due to the social connotation in their aim and results. The intent of hate crimes is to send messages to entire groups, their families and other supporters; the message being that they are unwelcome and unsafe in particular communities or areas (King, 2013). For example, many hate crimes are committed by young people who often believe that they have society’s permission to engage in violence against individuals with a homosexual orientation, thus committing violent crimes against the gay and lesbian populations.
What sets hate crimes apart from other acts of violence is the psychological damage incurred by victims. Any type of victimization has psychological consequences, however certain types of emotional reactions are more frequent among victims/survivors of hate crimes; these feelings may include anger, fear, stress, depression and anxiety (Jacobs & Henry, 1996).
Hate Crimes 3
Crimes of hatred and prejudice such as lynchings, cross burnings and vandalism of churches and synagogues are a sad facet of American history, however, the actual term “hate crime” did not enter the nation’s vocabulary until the 1980s, when emerging hate groups like the Skinheads launched a wave of crimes based on bias (Wen et.al, 2013). The FBI began investigating what we now call hate crimes as far back as 1914 with the start of World War I, which is when the Ku Klux Klan first attracted the nation’s attention.
In the nearly twenty five years since the 1990 enactment of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA), the number of hate crimes reported nationally has consistently ranged around 7,500 or more annually, which equates to nearly one every hour of the day; this data almost certainly understate the true numbers of hate crimes committed (King, 2013). Many victims of hate crimes are fearful of authorities and may not report hate crimes. Local authorities often do not accurately report violent incidents specifically as hate crimes, thus they do not get reported to the FBI.
Hate crime statistics for the year 2013 have not been released; for the year 2012, the FBI reported 5,796 criminal incidents involving 6,718 offenses nationally as being motivated by a bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability; 48.3 percent were motivated by racial bias, 19.6 percent were motivated by sexual-orientation bias, 19.0 percent were motivated by religious bias, and 11.5 percent were motivated by ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against disabilities accounted for 1.6 percent (FBI, 2013). There were 2,547 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property (FBI, 2013). The majority of these (74.8 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/ vandalism (FBI,
Hate Crimes 4
2013). Robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses accounted for the remaining 25.2 percent of crimes against property (FBI, 2013).
Reporting of hate crimes is voluntary and is usually grossly