The New Motivation For Hate Crimes

By Chris Hoenig


Ethnicity has replaced race as the No. 1 bias behind hate crimes, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS).

In 51 percent of the estimated 293,800 nonfatal violent and property hate crimes in 2012, the victims reported ethnicity—defined as the victim’s ancestral, cultural, social or national affiliation—as the bias that motivated the crime. Race was the second-most-common bias, motivating 46 percent of hate crimes. Approximately 58 percent of hate-crime victims reported more than one bias behind the crimes they suffered.

The rise in ethnically motivated hate crimes is a marked change from 2004, when 58 percent said race was the reason they were victimized. Ethnicity was the bias for 22 percent of the crimes in 2012, the most recent year that data are available, tied with sexual orientation as the third-most-common motivation behind race and association (perceived as the offender’s bias by 23 percent of victims).

Association now sits as the third most common bias (34 percent), followed by religion, which nearly tripled from 10 percent in 2004 to 28 percent in 2012, and gender, which more than doubled to 26 percent from 12 percent in 2004.

In addition to race, sexual orientation has seen a drop as the motivation for hate crimes, going from 22 percent in 2004 to 13 percent of hate crimes in 2012, as has perceived association (dropping from 19 percent to 7 percent). Crimes motivated by a person’s disability were steady at 11 percent.

The most common form of hate crime was simple assault, which occurred 63 percent of the time. About 90 percent were violent crimes, up from 78 percent in 2004, and 27 percent were classified as serious violent crimes, which includes rape or sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault.

The BJS estimates about 60 percent of hate crimes were not reported to police in 2012, though there is little statistically significant difference from the number of hate crimes that occurred in 2004 (281,700). These make up 1.2 percent of total victimizations and 4.2 percent of all violent crimes in 2012.

Only 22 percent of hate crimes were reported by the actual victim, while 12 percent were reported by someone else. Complaints were signed in 13 percent of the cases, while only an estimated 4 percent of hate crimes resulted in an arrest. In at least a quarter of the crimes the offender had a weapon, and the victim was injured in one out of every five cases.

Latinos were more than twice as likely as whites to be the victims of hate crimes—a rate that is more than triple what it was for Latinos in 2011—while Blacks were the second most likely. Men and women were victimized at a nearly equal rate, though nearly half of all victims were under the age of 25. Low-income individuals, with a household income under $25,000, were more than twice as likely to be victimized as any other income bracket.

The most-common offenders were men (61 percent), who were over 30 (41 percent) and who acted alone (64 percent). A virtually even number of offenders were white (34 percent) and Black (32 percent), while a slight majority (53 percent) had an intimate, familial or casual relationship with the victim.

The BJS tracks hate crimes using the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA). The HCSA defines a hate crime as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity,” and was amended to include people with disabilities in 1994 and gender or gender identity in 2009.

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