Hate and Bias Crime Data

Posted on August 6, 2012 by



In the midst of the ongoing Chick-fil-A mess, now seems like a good time to take a look at hate and bias crime. If you haven’t already read it, you really should start with last week’s post about Chick-fil-A. It deals with some of the free speech issues.

To reiterate: hate speech is generally, but not always, protected by first amendment rights.

Hate crimes, however, are a different story. A hate crime is one in which the offense is motivated by hatred of a group of people. Hate crimes are tricky in that they criminalize thinking – not all by itself – but in conjunction with a criminal act against certain groups of people.

Do we really want to criminalize thinking? Is it okay to say that someone deserves an extra penalty because of what they were thinking when they committed a crime?  Or their motive?  That aspect of hate crimes always gives me the heebie jeebies, in a Big Brother kind of way.

On the other hand, how can we, as a society, fail to take action when some of our members are targeted just because of who they are? Did we learn anything from the Holocaust? When we allow hate crimes, we contribute to oppression – so isn’t criminalizing hate crime obvious?

We can’t resolve those issues in a single blog post. Instead, presented for further contemplation, I give you some data on hate crimes. These are the most recent numbers available from the FBI’s UCR hate crime data.

By far, Blacks are the largest category of victims of hate and bias crimes. Sexual orientation, however, is similar in size to religion. Which brings us right back to Chick-fil-A. Must every path end at a fast food chain?

I anticipated that vandalism would constitute a sizeable chunk of the offense type pie, but I was a little surprised that it was the largest portion. Included in the “other” category are six homicides and four sexual assaults. While the numbers of such crimes are small, the impact on the relevant communities is huge.

Did anything surprise you in the data?