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Overview of Hate Crime

Date Published
December 21, 2010

The term "hate crime" was coined in the 1980s by journalists and policy advocates who were attempting to describe a series of incidents directed at Jews, Asians and African-Americans. The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines hate crime (also known as bias crime) as "a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin."[1] Washington and Oregon were the first states to pass hate crime legislation in 1981; today, 49 states have hate crime statutes. States vary with regard to the groups protected under hate crime laws (e.g., religion, race or ethnicity, and sexual orientation), the range of crimes covered, and the penalty enhancements for offenders. Most states and large cities now have hate crime task forces coordinating across several levels of government and working with community organizations.

Research Needed on Hate Crime

An NIJ-commissioned report reviewing hate crime literature and legislation was completed in 2005. [2] The report, along with a followup meeting of experts in the field, helped identify key gaps in research. Some of these include—

  • Estimating the prevalence of hate crime accurately.
  • Evaluating the impact of hate crime legislation on deterrence, punishment, enforcement, training, and reporting.
  • Understanding the varied motivations behind hate crimes, and developing empirically based offender typologies.
  • Exploring the effects of hate group membership, affiliation with hate groups, and reading materials produced by hate groups on the commission of hate crime acts.
  • Learning how hate crime incidents affect victims and their communities.
  • Evaluating programs designed to prevent hate crime or assist hate crime victims.

The report further called for the development of a central Federal repository of hate crime information to better address the inconsistencies among groups in defining hate crime and in data collection, measurement, and analysis.

See also Proceedings from the Hate Crime Workshop Meeting (pdf, 10 pages), hosted by NIJ, November 15, 2005.

Date Created: December 21, 2010