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Investigating Hate Crimes: Case Characteristics and Law Enforcement Responses

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1996
26 pages
The increase in hate crimes during the 1980's has led to two responses, legislation to expand the severity of punishment for such offenses and police-initiated efforts to focus attention on and more fully investigate hate crimes.
The paper specifically examines characteristics of hate crimes in two jurisdictions, New York City and Baltimore County, Maryland, and the police response. Data from case records of hate crimes and a sample of comparison crimes matched on the basis of criminal offense, date, and precinct are used in the analysis. In New York City, bias crimes are investigated by a specialized detective unit and are far more likely than comparison crimes to result in the arrest of one or more perpetrators. In Baltimore County, police patrol officers conduct followup investigations of bias crimes and emphasize victim support as an extension of the police department's community-oriented policing policy. Bias crimes in both jurisdictions differ from similar offenses not involving bias and from the public image of such offenses. Compared to nonbias crimes matched by statutory offense, hate crimes are more likely to be committed by young males acting against multiple victims. Hate crimes are also less likely than comparison crimes to result in physical injury to the victim. Most hate crimes involve displays of racial bias directed primarily at blacks. Media portrayals of hate crimes that emphasize cross burnings and activities of formally organized hate groups tend to create a sensationalized and inaccurate picture of hate crimes. Differences in the police approaches used in New York City and Baltimore County are noted, and effects and limitations of special police efforts to address bias crimes are discussed. 40 references, 12 footnotes, and 7 tables

Date Published: January 1, 1996