October 27, 2008
New FBI Hate Crime Statistics Confirm Need for Stronger Federal Response
New York, October 27, 2008 - Hate crime statistics released today by the Federal Bureau of Investigation show a continued upward trend in certain categories of bias motivated violence in 2007 and confirm the need for a more vigorous response by the federal government, including enactment of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act (S.1105, H.R. 1592) and other steps outlined in a recent report by Human Rights First. "There have been some glaring omissions in the federal government's response to a serious and growing problem of hate crime violence," said Tad Stahnke, the Director of Human Rights First's Fighting Discrimination Program. "The United States has both legislation and an extensive monitoring system on hate crimes. However, several steps should be taken to help ensure that the climate surrounding illegal immigration does not contribute to impunity for those who perpetrate violence targeting them and to strengthen the federal and local law enforcement response to all hate crime, including increased violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity bias." Although the overall number of reported hate crime incidents remained steady from 2006 to 2007, of particular note in the 2007 statistics are continued increases in reported violent attacks against persons of Hispanic origin and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. According to the new FBI report, there were 595 incidents of anti-Hispanic hate crimes in 2007, an increase of 3.3% from the 576 incidents reported in 2006. There was also a rise in the number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation bias, with a 5.5% increase in incidents from 2006 to 2007 (from 1195 to 1265 incidents). This confirms trends reported in Human Rights First's 2008 Hate Crime Survey. Anti-Hispanic violence rose by 35 percent between 2003 and 2006, according to an analysis conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center of FBI crime reports; anti-Hispanic incidents rose in 2007 in both the State of California and Los Angeles County, according to official statistics. The violence targets both U.S. citizens and foreigners, and both legal and illegal immigrants, and has taken place amidst recent mainstreaming of anti-immigrant rhetoric and fears. Many incidents appear to target those perceived to be or provide assistance to illegal immigrants. Sexual orientation bias crimes are also on the rise, and continue to be characterized by a high level of violence. Five of the nine reported hate crime killings were on the basis of sexual orientation bias. There is also a higher proportion of personal assaults than in other categories of hate crime; over 47% of sexual orientation bias offenses were violent assaults, in comparison to 31% for all hate crimes. Nongovernmental monitors reported a substantial increase in 2007 of violent attacks on LGBT people. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) and more than thirty of its member organizations across the country reported a 24 percent increase in incidents of violence against LGBT people in 2007, compared to 2006. They noted that murders more than doubled from 10 in 2006 to 21 in 2007. In order for the U.S. government to more effectively address hate crime, Human Rights First recommends the following (the complete list of recommendations is below):
Congress should pass and the President should sign the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (LLEHCPA) in order to provide support to local law enforcement officials by facilitating federal involvement and assistance. The LLEHCPA would also ensure that federal law covers the full range of hate crime by adding sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability to the forms of discrimination already included.
The Department of Justice should take steps to increase hate crime reporting by local jurisdictions, targeting agencies that have not participated, have underreported, or have reported zero hate crimes in the past.