By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
Hate crimes are especially threatening and are on the rise in U.S. society. According to the FBI, hate crimes involve a traditional crime such as murder or arson but with the added element of bias on behalf of the offender. This bias often comes due to someone’s race, religion, disability or ethnicity.
One recent study found that there was a 44% increase in hate crimes in 2021. In the same year, hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by 342%.
Hate Groups in the US
According to The Hill, over 838 hate groups have been identified in the United States. These groups are often aligned with far right and far left ideology, with extremism and anarchy being their key tenets. The Hill also notes that the states with the highest number of hate groups per capita in 2020 included Montana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Nevada.
Hate Crimes Can Often Be Committed by Non-Members of Hate Groups
Perpetrators do not have to be in a hate group to commit a hate crime. Anyone who commits violent acts against someone due to that person’s ethnicity or religion commits a hate crime, and those criminal acts should be prosecuted accordingly.
According to the Department of Justice, some examples of recent hate crime cases include:
- An Ohio man who was found guilty of attempting to provide support to ISIS and attempted to attack a synagogue in Toledo.
- A Colorado man who was convicted of an unprovoked stabbing of a Black person.
- A Tennessee man who was convicted of four church arson cases.
- A Virginia man who was convicted of burning a cross in a Black family’s front yard.
- A man from Ohio who was convicted of planning to engage in a mass shooting of women.
- An Iowa woman who attempted to murder two children due to their race and national origin.
- A California woman who was convicted of threatening to bomb a Catholic preparatory school.
Identifying a Hate Crime
According to the Los Angeles Police Department, some examples of hate crimes include:
- Incidents that result in injury to the victim, even if the injury is minor
- Threats of violence toward a victim or target when there is the possibility of the threat being carried out
- Property damage that is motivated by bias toward the victim’s race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender
- Property damage and other criminal acts that are directed toward public or private agencies, such as an abortion clinic or church
Hate Crime Victims Are Often Reluctant to Report the Crime
Hate crimes are especially vicious because they are motivated by hatred toward another person. Often, that victim is unknown to a perpetrator and is targeted due to his or her appearance.
All crimes – especially hate crimes – should be promptly reported by victims. Victims of hate crimes may be hesitant to report the crime because they live in fear of reprisal by the offender.
However, hate crimes are often prosecuted more aggressively than traditional crimes and there are preventative measures that can be taken to keep victims safe, such as court injunctions to protect the victim.
Preventing Hate Crimes
Hate crimes continue to be a major concern in our society. Indicators of extremism on someone’s social media sites or in someone’s personal life should be promptly reported to authorities.
Depending on the extremism and a perpetuator’s intent, it is wise to contact law enforcement or provide counseling services for someone who displays signs of extremism behavior to prevent hate crimes. Public awareness of what constitutes hate crimes can go a long way toward mitigating the risk of hate crimes. Law enforcement should also receive training in investigating hate crimes to ensure successful prosecution.