What is a Hate Crime?

California State Law

"The State of California's Hate Crime statute, Penal Code Section 422.6, offers a wider interpretation of hate crime, as those acts "committed because of the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. The actions considered criminal are using force or threat of force to willfully injure, intimidate, interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her by the Constitution or laws of the State or country."

Federal Initiatives

A. The Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. 534)
Enacted in 1990, the HCSA requires the Justice Department to acquire data on crimes which "manifest prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity" from law enforcement agencies across the country and to publish an annual summary of the findings. In the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,12 Congress expanded coverage 12 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-322, 108 Stat. 1796 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 18, 21, 28, 42, etc....U.S.). of the HCSA to require FBI reporting on crimes based on "disability." Police officials have come to appreciate the law enforcement and community benefits of tracking hate crime and responding to it in a priority fashion. By compiling statistics and charting the geographic distribution of these crimes, police officials may be in a position to discern patterns and anticipate an increase in racial tensions in a given jurisdiction. Law enforcement officials can advance police-community relations by demonstrating a commitment to be both tough on hate crime perpetrators and sensitive to the special needs of hate crime victims. The FBI documented a total of 4,558 hate crimes in 1991, reported from almost 2,800 police departments in 32 states. The Bureau's 1992 data, released in March 1994, documented 7,442 hate crime incidents reported from more than twice as many agencies, 6,181 -- representing 42 states and the District of Columbia. For 1993, the FBI reported 7,587 hate crimes from 6,865 agencies in 47 states and the District of Columbia. The FBI's 1994 statistics documented 5,932 hate crimes, reported by 7,356 law enforcement agencies across the country. The FBI's 1995 report documented 7,947 crimes reported by 9,584 agencies across the country. The FBI's most recent HCSA report, for 1996, documented 8,759 hate crimes reported by 11,355 agencies across the country. The FBI report indicated that about 63 percent of the reported hate crimes were race-based, with 14 percent committed against individuals on the basis of their religion, 11 percent on the basis of ethnicity, and 12 percent on the basis of sexual orientation. Approximately 42 percent of the reported crimes were anti-Black, 13 percent of the crimes were anti-White. The 1,109 crimes against Jews and Jewish institutions comprised almost 13 percent of the total -- and 79 percent of the reported hate crimes based on religion. Four percent of the crimes were anti-Asian, and just over 6 percent were anti-Hispanic. [For additional details, see the attached comparison of FBI hate crime statistics from 1991-1996 at Appendix E.] Despite an incomplete reporting record over the early years of the Act, the HCSA has proved to be a powerful mechanism to confront violent bigotry against individuals on the basis of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity -- and a spark for increased public awareness of the problem. Studies have demonstrated that victims are more likely to report a hate crime if they know a special reporting system is in place.

Hate Crime Statistics Act As Amended, 28 USC 534) [Sec. 1.]


(a) This Act may be cited as the ‘Hate Crime Statistics Act.’

“(b)(1) Under the authority of section 534 of title 28, United States Code, the Attorney General shall acquire data, for each calendar year, about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including where appropriate the crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape; aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation; arson; and destruction, damage or vandalism of property.

"(2) The Attorney General shall establish guidelines for the collection of such data including the necessary evidence and criteria that must be present for a finding of manifest prejudice and procedures for carrying out the purposes of this section.

"(3) Nothing in this section creates a cause of action or a right to bring an action, including an action based on discrimination due to sexual orientation. As used in this section, the term ‘sexual orientation’ means consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality. This subsection does not limit any existing cause of action or right to bring an action, including any action under the administrative Procedure Act or the All Writs Act [5 USCS 551 et seq. or 28 USCS 1651]. (4) Data acquired under this section shall be used only for research or statistical purposes and may not contain any information that may reveal the identity of an individual victim of a crime. (5) The Attorney General shall publish an annual summary of the data acquired under this section. (c) There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this section through fiscal year 2002.

“Sec. 2. (a) Congress finds that — “(1) the American family life is the foundation of American Society,

“(2) Federal policy should encourage the well-being, financial security, and health of the American family,

“(3) schools should not de-emphasize the critical value of American family life. “(b) Nothing in this Act shall be construed, nor shall any funds appropriated to carry out the purpose of the Act be used, to promote or encourage homosexuality.”


B. The Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act
Originally introduced as separate legislation by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), this measure was enacted into law as Section 280003 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. The provision directed the United States Sentencing Commission to provide a sentencing enhancement of "not less than 3 offense levels for offenses that the finder of fact at trial determines beyond a reasonable doubt are hate crimes." The provision defined a hate crime as "a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person." This measure, the Federal counterpart for state hate crime penalty-enhancement statutes, applies, inter alia, to attacks and vandalism which occur in national parks and on other

Federal property. In May 1995, the United States Sentencing Commission announced its implementation of a three-level sentencing guidelines increase for hate crimes, as directed by Congress. This amendment took effect on November 1, 1995.


C. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA): Expanding the Justice Department's Criminal Civil Rights Jurisdiction
The HCPA, sponsored by Senators. Kennedy (D-MA), Specter (R-PA), and Wyden (D-OR), and by Reps. Schumer (D-NY), and McCollum (R-FL), would amend Section 245 of Title 18 U.S.C., one of the primary statutes used to combat racial and religious bias-motivated violence. The current statute prohibits intentional interference, by force or threat of force, with the enjoyment of a Federal right or benefit (such as voting, going to school, or employment) on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. Under the current statute, the government must prove both that the crime occurred because of a person's membership in a protected group, such as race or religion, and because (not while) he or she was engaging in a Federally protected activity. In its current form, the statute leaves Federal prosecutors powerless to intervene in bias-motivated crimes when they cannot establish the victim's involvement in a Federally protected activity. Nor can Federal authorities step in to act in cases involving death or serious bodily injury based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability-based bias when local law enforcement is not available. While states continue to play the primary role in the prosecution of bias-motivated violence, the Federal government must have jurisdiction to address those limited cases in which local authorities are either unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute. The legislation, which has attracted the support of a broad range of national civil rights groups, state and local government associations, and law enforcement organizations, would amend 18 U.S.C. 245 in two ways: First, it would provide new authority for Federal officials to investigate and prosecute cases in which the bias violence occurs because of the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation, gender, or disability. In addition, the measure would remove the overly restrictive obstacles to Federal involvement by permitting prosecutions without requiring proof that the victim was attacked because he or she was engaged in a Federally protected activity.

Hate Crime the Violence of Intoleration

Community Relations Service United States Department of Justice

The Community Relations Service (CRS), an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, is a specialized Federal conciliation service available to State and local officials to help resolve and prevent racial and ethnic conflict, violence and civil disorders. When governors, mayors, police chiefs, and school superintendents need help to defuse racial crises, they can turn to CRS. CRS helps local officials and residents tailor locally defined resolutions when conflict and violence threaten community stability and well-being. CRS conciliators assist in identifying the sources of violence and conflict and utilizing specialized crisis management and violence reduction techniques which work best for each community. CRS has no law enforcement authority and does not impose solutions, investigate or prosecute cases, or assign blame or fault. CRS conciliators are required by law to conduct their activities in confidence, without publicity, and are prohibited from disclosing confidential information.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in "Hate Crimes Reported in NIBRS (National Incident-Based Reporting System), 1997-1999," between 1997 and 1999:

  • 61 percent of hate crime incidents were motivated by race
  • 11 percent by ethnicity.
  • Of incidents motivated by religion, 41 percent targeted Jewish victims.
  • CRS responded to hundreds of bias-motivated hate crime cases that caused or intensified community racial and ethnic tensions. As authorized by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS became involved only in those cases in which the alleged perpetrator was motivated, or perceived to be motivated, by the victim's race, color, or national origin.

    Hate crime is the violence of intolerance and bigotry, intended to hurt and intimidate someone because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religious, sexual orientation, or disability.

    The purveyors of hate use explosives, arson, weapons, vandalism, physical violence, and verbal threats of violence to instill fear in their victims, leaving them vulnerable to more attacks and feeling alienated, helpless, suspicious and fearful. Others may become frustrated and angry if they believe the local government and other groups in the community will not protect them.

    When perpetrators of hate are not prosecuted as criminals and their acts not publicly condemned, their crimes can weaken even those communities with the healthiest race relations.

    Of all crimes, hate crimes are most likely to create or exacerbate tensions, which can trigger larger community-wide racial conflict, civil disturbances, and even riots. Hate crimes put cities and towns at-risk of serious social and economic consequences. The immediate costs of racial conflicts and civil disturbances are police, fire, and medical personnel overtime, injury or death, business and residential property loss, and damage to vehicles and equipment. Long-term recovery may be hindered by a decline in property values, which results in lower tax revenues, scarcity of funds for rebuilding, and increased insurance rates.

    Victims and Perpetrators according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in "Hate Crimes Reported in NIBRS, 1997-1999

  • Racially motivated hate crimes most frequently target blacks.
  • Six in 10 racially biased incidents targeted blacks.
  • 3 in 10 people targeted whites.
  • Hispanics of all races were targeted in 6.7 percent of incidents
  • Asians in 3 percent.
  • Younger offenders were responsible for most hate crimes and most of their victims were between 11 and 31. The age of victims of violent hate crimes drops dramatically after age 45.

  • Thirty-one percent of violent offenders and 46 percent of property offenders were under age 18.
  • Thirty-two percent of hate crimes occurred in a residence.
  • 28 percent in an open space.
  • 19 percent in a retail/commercial establishment or public building.
  • 12 percent at a school or college.
  • 3 percent at a church, synagogue, or temple.
  • Some perpetrators commit hate crimes with their peers as a "thrill" or while under the influence of drugs or alcohol

    Some as a reaction against a perceived threat or to preserve their "turf'; and some out of resentment over the growing economic power of a particular racial or ethnic group engage in scapegoating.

    Examples of CRS Hate Crime Cases

  • In Anchorage, Alaska, after white youths videotaped themselves shooting Native Alaskans with paint balls, CRS worked with community groups, citizens, as well as state and local officials to calm community concerns. In response to the incident, CRS trained Anchorage Police Department Academy recruits to increase the ability and skills when interacting with people of color. CRS provided officers with additional tools and conflict resolution skills. Participants were provided an overview of services of perspective organizations and shared strategies in strengthening police-minority community relations and methods of prevention and reduction of racial tensions.
  • In Springfield, Missouri, an African American male in the company of a white female was stabbed at local Denny's restaurant by a group of white males. CRS worked with the NAACP, local and federal law enforcement personnel, the Assistant District Attorney, as well as the victim and his family, to help maintain stable community relations and assure that the situation was being fully addressed.
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  • Near San Diego, California, elderly immigrant workers were attacked by white youths. The body of a Latino immigrant youth was also discovered in the same vicinity as the attacks on the workers. To help address community concerns, CRS facilitated the distribution of factual information about the case to a wide range of interests in the community to reduce escalating tensions.
  • When an African American employee of a construction company in Marquette, Kansas, reported that he had been racially harassed for several months by fellow employees through racist graffiti and name-calling, CRS worked with the NAACP and the construction company to improve race relations in the workplace and develop an action plan.
  • After a Jewish synagogue was vandalized by four Arab- American males in the Bronx, New York , CRS met with Jewish community leaders, Arab-American community leaders, and local officials. CRS helped open lines of communication for the parties to express their concerns and discuss ways to improve relations between the local Arab and Jewish communities.
  • CRS Assistance on School Issues:

  • CRS assistance was requested by the Puyallup School District in Puyallup, Washington. CRS helped the Puyallup School District Superintendent and Diversity Task Force develop a diversity plan to be incorporated into the Puyallup School District comprehensive strategic plan. CRS provided the school district with training on race and cultural diversity, and assistance with community outreach and crisis response.
  • When two students were reportedly harassed with racial and sexual slurs at Bates College in Lewiston, Minnesota, CRS helped the director of the Bates College Multi-cultural program, Bates College officials, and the Lewiston Chief of Police to develop a plan of action to address racial tensions on campus.
  • In Duxbury, Vermont, an interracial family reported harassment of their children at a local school. To address the harassment, CRS met with school and state officials, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union, to help develop a plan of action to prevent further harassment and improve race relations.
  • CRS Assistance on Housing Issues:

  • In Modesto, California, an interracial couple reported a firebomb thrown through their bedroom window. At the request of educators, public officials, law enforcement officers, and community leaders, CRS assisted in developing a community response mechanism for responding to hate crimes to address community concerns.
  • At a Fair Housing Training Conference in Fairfax, Virginia, CRS facilitated cooperation and coordination between local service agencies. CRS assistance also strengthened conflict resolution mechanisms by the Fairfax County Human Rights Commission to reduce tension with refugee and immigrant groups.
  • When an elderly woman of African American descent was reportedly removed from her public housing dwelling in Kingsville, Texas, due to allegedly false and discriminatory accusations, CRS brought together officials from the local housing authority and leaders of the African American community to ease community tensions.
  • In Boston, Massachusetts, local authorities received a large number of complaints of hate crimes and discrimination facing residents of Boston's Public Housing. CRS worked with Boston's Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston to develop and implement programs to prevent and respond to community tensions.
  • CRS Assistance on Business Issues:

  • Community residents alleged that the local business climate in New Britain, Connecticut, was hostile toward Hispanic businesses. To help address the allegations, CRS organized a meeting between Hispanic community leaders and representatives from the Chamber of Commerce. At the meeting the parties agreed to develop a seminar for business leaders and incorporate the needs of Hispanic-owned businesses.
  • When the Black Business Association of Atlantic City, New Jersey, alleged discrimination against the African American community in the awarding of business contracts by the Casino Control Commission, CRS facilitated a meeting with representatives from the mayor's office, the Casino Control Commission, and the Black Business Association to identify concerns and prevent tensions from escalating.
  • CRS Assistance on Church Burnings:

    CRS staff have worked directly with hundreds of rural, suburban, and urban governments to help eliminate racial distrust and polarization, promote multiracial efforts for construction of new buildings, conduct race relations training for community leaders and law enforcement officers, conduct community dialogs, and provide technical assistance in ways to bring together law enforcement agencies and minority neighborhoods.