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Mixed news on hate crimes

Timothy Kincaid

November 22nd, 2010

Hate crimes statistics is a difficult subject to correctly evaluate. Reporting by local agencies has, until recently, been voluntary and often subject to arbitrary interpretation, so year to year or location to location comparisons must be considered with the understanding that any specific anomaly in long term trending may not accurately reflect a real or significant shift in either social attitudes or behavior.

I think that it is evident and obvious that hate crimes are under-reported. Behaviors that mirror biases of individual officers are more likely to be treated as “no big deal”, and, as we have seen, even people who see themselves as supportive can dismiss hostility as “a natural reaction.” And, of course, most hate crimes are only known when the victim is willing to come forward and report a crime or file a complaint.

Reporting of hate crimes based on sexual orientation are probably complicated by a greater lack of recognition or by a greater hesitancy to come forward than other animus related crimes. However, with increased social acceptance for gay people, both institutional dismissiveness and fear of recognition have decreased which probably has resulted in a higher frequency of incidents being reported or tracked.

Okay, that’s enough caveats. Now the positive news.

The FBI has released the statistics on hate crimes reported during 2009, and fewer incidents were reported than previous years in nearly every category. (FBI)

While the number of law enforcement agencies submitting data to us increased—topping off at 14,222—the number of hate crime incidents reported for 2009 (6,604) was down from 2008. The number of reported victims (8,336) has also gone down. (“Victims,” in this case, can be individuals, businesses, institutions, and society as a whole.)

Sexual Orientation based crimes were significantly fewer than in prior years. Comparison to 2008 may not reflect a trend, as Proposition 8′s fear-based anti-gay campaign is believed to have generated an increased hostility towards gay people, but with 1,436 incidents, this is lower than both 2008 and 2007.

Hate crimes based on race, religion, and ethnicity were also lower than in the past two years. This is wonderful news.

However, there is also some disturbing news to be found among the data.

When considering just violent crimes (Murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and simple assault), sexual orientation based crimes are up, both in incidents and in percentage of hate crimes. As in prior years, reported anti-gay hate crimes tended to include physical violence significantly more often than those of other reported demographics. This may reflect either a greater degree of animus, or it may demonstrate that reporting agencies are less likely to take non-violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation as serious or worth reporting.

Violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation went from 695 in 2008 to 725 in 2009. This reflects a slight increase in the percentage of violent hate crimes that are sexual orientation related as well as a slight increase in the percentage of sexual orientation hate crimes that were violent.

Additionally, the percentage of populations that are impacted should be considered when looking at hate crime statistics. Hate crimes, especially violent hate crimes, target individual members of the gay community to a greater extent than some other minority communities. (Jews are also disproportionately impacted, with damage and vandalism being the dominant hate crime).

For example, African Americans make up about 12.4% of the population and there were 819 reported cases of anti-black assaults. The GLB community, on the other hand, comprise maybe around 5.5% of the total population and suffered 712 reported cases of assault.

So while it is good news that the total hate crime incidences reported in 2009 – including those based on anti-gay animus – were down, it remains troubling that so many anti-gay hate crimes continue to be violent.

Comments

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Ben in Atlanta
November 22nd, 2010 | LINK

I went and had a look at the last published Census data and my county and congressional district are 54% African American. It could be that I’m more aware of violence and hate-crimes directed toward LGBT African Americans because that’s what’s in front of my face most often. (Or sitting by my side.) To me your percentage looks low although it may not be.

Timothy Kincaid
November 22nd, 2010 | LINK

Ben,

Click the link above (FBI) and take a look at the report. If I’ve erred, please let me know and I’ll correct it.

Ben in Atlanta
November 22nd, 2010 | LINK

It’s just my feeling that some of the ones in the race, ethnicity, and religion categories might be related to sexual orientation and not reported as such. I see a lot of people down South defending their closets. I’m not calling you or the FBI wrong, it could just be regional and cultural.

Patrick
November 22nd, 2010 | LINK

A few years ago (I think it was 2005) sexual orientation represented 13% of the hate crimes, now it’s 18%.

While the absolute numbers might be down, the proportion of reported crimes is way up over the last few years.

Arthur
November 23rd, 2010 | LINK

One of the problems in reporting is ubiquitous use of the word f****t. It is said in every fight between str8’s so it is often discounted by authorities in true hate crimes.

Bruce
November 25th, 2010 | LINK

Hate crimes based on “sexual orientation”: 18%

Hate crimes based on religion: 18%

So they’re roughly equal. That’s it! No more criticism of religion. Your fear-based anti-religion campaign is fueling violence against people of faith!

Do you hear me? NO MORE TALKING! What do you think this is, America? When someone else commits an act of violence, YOU are responsible because YOU run an anti-Christian hate site. There are not two legitimate sides, so you must not be permitted to speak!

I’ve noticed however, that your less concerned about Muslims. If you were to take them on, I might have a scintilla of respect for you. They’re the ones who want to drop walls on you, by the way.

Priya Lynn
November 25th, 2010 | LINK

Bruce, they are not even remotely “roughly equal. Given that there are far fewer gays than religious people those 18% figures mean a person is several times more likely to be attacked for being gay than to be attacked because of their religion.

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