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Overview of Hate Crime

Date Published
September 13, 2021

Hate crimes (also known as “bias crimes”) are recognized as a distinct category of crimes that have a broader effect than most other kinds of crimes because the victims are not only the crime’s immediate target but also others like them.

The FBI defines hate crimes as “criminal offense[s] against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”[1] Most states and U.S. territories have hate crime statutes enforced by state and local law enforcement; however, the laws and definitions vary widely across jurisdictions with regard to bias motivations (e.g. religion, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, the crimes covered, and the penalty enhancements.[2] For example, forty-seven states and the District of Columbia include race/color as a bias category, while 15 states and the District of Columbia include gender identity.

In 2019, 15,588 law enforcement agencies reported 7,103 single-bias incidents (incidents motivated by one bias) that involved 8,302 offenses and 8,552 victims, and 211 multiple-bias incidents (incidents motivated by two or more biases) that involved 257 offenses 260 victims.[3]

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is dedicated to preventing and fighting hate crimes. DOJ works to prevent hate crimes by supporting community education and dialogue, and providing support, technical assistance, and funding to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies and service providers. DOJ investigates and prosecutes federal hate crimes, which are defined through five federal statutes:[5]

  • The Shepard Byrd Act, 18 U.S.C § 249.
  • Criminal Interference with Right to Fair Housing, 42 U.S.C. § 3631.
  • Church Arson Prevention Act, 18 U.S.C. § 247.
  • Violent Interference with Federally Protected Rights, 18 U.S.C. §245.
  • Conspiracy Against Rights, 18 U.S.C. 241.

From October 1, 2004 to September 30, 2019, U.S. attorneys investigated 1,864 suspects in federal hate crime matters.[6] Additionally, DOJ collects national hate crime data in accordance with the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, 28 U.S.C. § 534, through two data collections:

Research on Hate Crimes

In 2005, NIJ commissioned a report reviewing hate crime literature and legislation and convened experts to identify key gaps in research.[7] Building on this report, NIJ has supported research and evaluation on hate crimes within several priority areas, including:

  • Hate crime measurement.
  • Victimization research with specific, localized populations of interest.
  • Exploring the use of non-traditional data sources to examine trends and predict hate crimes.
  • Identifying the characteristics of hate crime offenders.
  • Research to assist police and prosecutors in responding to, investigating, and prosecuting hate crimes.

Date Created: December 21, 2010