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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Latest Hate Crime Data Show Need for Stronger Prevention Efforts

November 23, 2009 - Posted by Ron Bigler

FBI Report Finds Hate Crime at Highest Level since 2001

Following a slight drop in 2007, the number of reported hate crimes in United States rose in 2008, according to latest figures from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In its annual report, "Hate Crime Statistics 2008", the FBI documented 7,783 hate crimes in 2008, up from the 7,624 reported in 2007. The 2008 report shows the highest number of crimes directed at Blacks, Jews, and gay men and lesbians since 2001.

While the uptick in reported hate crimes is a disturbing trend, it may also reflect the fact that a higher number of law enforcement agencies are participating in the FBI's annual data collection effort. The FBI reported that 13,690 law enforcement agencies in the United States participated in the 2008 report – the largest number of police agencies in the 18-year history of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990. 

Other findings include:

  • Religion-based crimes increased from 1,400 in 2007 to 1,519 in 2008, and the number of reported anti-Jewish crimes also increased, from 969 in 2007 to 1,013 in 2008.  Reported crimes against Muslims decreased from 115 to 105, the lowest level since 2000.
  • The number of hate crimes directed at gay men and lesbians increased for the third year in a row – from 1,265 in 2007 to 1,297 in 2008, with a significant increase in the number of gay and lesbian victims – from 1,512 in 2007 to 1,706 in 2008.
  • In a welcome break from a four-year trend, the number of reported crimes directed against Hispanics decreased – from 595 in 2007 to 561 in 2008. 

Comprehensive collecting and reporting of hate crime statistics are essential, but stepped up prevention efforts are still very much warranted. 

"With data comes awareness and accountability – which must lead to action.  Too frequently we have seen that failure to address bias crimes can cause an isolated incident to fester and result in widespread community tensions," said Robert G. Sugarman, Anti-Defamation League national chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, Anti-Defamation League national director, in a statement.

Referencing the recent enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), the ADL is calling on all concerned groups and individuals to join in a coordinated campaign to prevent, deter, and respond effectively to criminal violence motivated by bigotry and prejudice. 

A hate crime is defined by the FBI as a criminal act that is motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or disability. The crime may be committed against a person, property, or society. One provision of the newly-enacted HCPA requires the FBI to begin collecting data on hate crimes directed against individuals on the basis of gender and gender identity as well. LCCR Hate Crime Task Force members will work with the FBI in the coming months to ensure that training resources are updated and that law enforcement officials know about new tools and partnership opportunities to confront hate violence in the states.

Learn more about LCCR's work on preventing hate crime. 

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