Chapter 21, Section 1
Hate and Bias Crimes
crimes are motivated by hatred against a victim based upon his
or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or national
origin. These hate crimes pose unique challenges for victim service
providers. The victim and, indeed, the entire community are detrimentally
affected by bias crimes. The special needs of bias and hate crime
victims require special sensitivity from victim service, law enforcement
and criminal justice professionals.
Upon completion of this chapter, students will understand the
1. The definition of bias crime.
2. Bias crime indicators for law enforcement.
3. The unique features of bias crimes that differentiate them
from other crimes.
4. The impact bias crimes have on victims, as well as the community.
- Preliminary figures show 5,852 hate crime incidents were reported
to the FBI during 1994, including incidents reported by more than
7,200 law enforcement agencies in 43 states and the District of
- Sixty percent of the incidents were motivated by racial bias;
18 percent by religious bias; 12 percent by sexual-orientation
bias; and 11 percent by ethnicity/national origin bias. The 5,852
incidents involved, 7,144 separate offenses, 7,187 victims, and
- Most of the incidents (84 percent) involved only one victim
and a single offense type (98 percent). Fewer than one-third,
however, involved only one victim and one offender.
- Seven of every ten incidents involved crimes against persons,
and eight of every ten were directed at individuals. Of the total
incidents directed at individuals, 15 percent involved crimes
- In 1992, 17 persons were murdered in hate-motivated incidents.
While bias against ethnic groups motivated fewer hate crime offenses
than any other bias-types, it resulted in the highest number of
murders; eight. Of the remaining murders, seven were motivated
by racial bias, one was motivated by religious bias, and one by
- Law enforcement agencies reported 7,913 known offenders to
be associated with the 6,623 incidents recorded in 1992. Fifty-three
percent of the known offenders were white, and 42% were black.
Offenders were unknown for 2,821 (36%) of the incidents.
- Nine out of ten offenders were identified in connection with
anti-black offenses. Similarly, nine of every ten black offenders
identified were associated with anti-white offenses.
- Twenty-five percent of hate crime incidents in 1992 occurred
in residences. Following closely were highways, roads, alleys,
or streets, accounting for 23%. The remaining incidents were widely
distributed among varied locations.
(The preceding data were derived from the Federal
Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program "1992
Hate Crime Statistics," 1993, U.S. Department of Justice,
Overview of Bias Crimes
The Federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 defines
bias crimes as crimes motivated by "hatred against a victim
based on his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity,
or national origin." Constitutional protections are guaranteed
to all in America. Yet some within our country are victimized,
sometimes subtly and at other times very overtly, for no reason
other than the color of their skin, the religion they profess,
the heritage of their parents, or their sexual orientation. Not
only is the individual who is personally touched by these offenses
victimized, but the entire class of individuals residing in the
community is affected. Professionals must be particularly skillful
in responding in a way that does not exacerbate the trauma of
the victim and the community. Victims of hate crimes often suffer
serious and long-lasting traumatic stress that can be made worse
by an uninterested or inappropriate responses.
Unique Challenges for Victim Service Professionals
- May have a more devastating effect than other crimes because
they have a unique psychological impact on the victim.
- Are considered "message crimes" -- crimes that send
a message of fear and terror based on a foundation of bigotry.
- Have an impact on the victim's community. As a result, a seemingly
insignificant incident can exacerbate existing tension within
the community with the potential for reprisals and escalating
- Demand a special response from law enforcement, criminal justice,
and victim assistance professionals.
Bias Crime Indicators
When law enforcement officials are investigating a crime, there
are clues they can look for in determining if a case should be
investigated as a bias crime. These clues are called bias indicators.
Ultimately, the determination that a crime is a bias crime will
be based on the facts of the case. Bias indicators suggest a possibility,
not a legal certainty, and can provide guidelines to shape the
investigative process. Such indicators include the following:
Racial, Ethnic, Gender and Cultural Differences
- Racial, religious, ethnic/national origin, disability, or
sexual orientation of a victim differs from that of the offender.
- Victim is a member of a group that is overwhelmingly outnumbered
by members of another group in the area where the incident has
- Victim was engaged in activities promoting his/her group.
- Incident coincided with a holiday or date of particular significance
to the victim's group.
- Victim, although not a member of the targeted group, is a
member of an advocacy group that supports the victim group, or
the victim was in the company of a member of the targeted group.
- Historically, animosity exists between the victim's group
and the suspect's group.
Comments, Written Statements and Gestures
- Bias-related comments, written statements or gestures were
made by the offender.
Drawings, Markings, Symbols and Graffiti
- Bias-related drawings, markings, symbols, or graffiti were
left at the scene of the incident.
- Bias indicators need not establish that the predominant purpose
of an offender's actions was motivated by hatred or bias. It is
sufficient for classification of an incident as a bias crime that
an offender was acting out of hatred or bias, together with other
motives, or that a bias motive was a contributing factor, in whole
or in part, in the commission of a criminal act.
Organized Hate Groups
- Objects or items that represent the work of organized hate
groups were left (e.g. white hoods, burning crosses), or an organized
hate group claimed responsibility for the incident.
- There were indications that a hate group was involved. For
example, a hate group claimed responsibility for the crime, or
was active in the neighborhood.
Previous Existence of Bias Crime/Incidents
- Victim was visiting a location where previous bias crimes
had been committed against members of the victim's group.
- Several incidents occurred in the same area, and the victims
were members of the same group.
- Victim has received previous harassing mail or phone calls,
or has been the victim of verbal abuse based on his/her affiliation
with a targeted group.
- Victims or witnesses perceive that the incident was motivated
Motive of Suspect
- Suspect was previously involved in a similar incident or is
a member of, or associates with members of, an organized hate
- The victim was in the company of, or married to, a member
of a targeted group.
- The victim was perceived by the offender as violating or breaking
from traditional conventions or working in nontraditional employment.
- The offender has a history of previous crimes with a similar
modus operandi, and there have been multiple victims of the same
(citizenship, race, religious, ethnic/national origin, disability,
sexual orientation, or gender).
- The victim was in or near an area commonly associated with
or frequented by a particular (citizenship, race, religion, ethnic/national
origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender) (e.g. a gay
Lack of Other Motives
- No clear economic or other motive for the incident exists.
Unique Features of Bias Crimes
Bias crime is likely to be more serious, injurious or lethal than
any other personal injury crime. Motivated in part by fear, it
often escalates when the members of the dominant culture think
they are under attack. Bias crimes have been prevalent in, at
least, certain parts of America and attributed to members of particular
groups, e.g. the Ku Klux Klan. The issue emerged again during
the 1991 Gulf War, when some Arab-Americans were harassed or even
Bias crimes are usually perpetrated in groups. The notable exception
is found in sex offenders who commit acts of sexual assault or
other abuse out of a clear hatred of their victims. Group-instigated
crime has a significant impact on the victim for several reasons:
- There is a diffusion of responsibility so that no one person
is held personally accountable.
- The group seems to generate courage, particularly among those
who fit the description of "cowardly."
- Groups tend to exacerbate the viciousness of the crimes.
- The most egregious type of victim trauma of all hate crimes
results from mass murders and/or assaults. Hatred has been thought
to be one of the primary motives in a number of recent mass crimes.
- Bias crimes have also emerged in response to the AIDS epidemic.
According to the Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency
Epidemic, there is "increasing violence against those perceived
to carry HIV," and that for them, "so-called 'hate crimes'
are a serious problem."
- A large number of bias crimes seems to be aimed at individuals
who are not only members of an identified group, but who are perceived
as infringing on another group's sovereignty.
Victim and Community Impact
Bias crimes affect both individuals and communities. Each of the
unique characteristics of bias crimes impact -- from the perspective
of the victim and the community -- is presented below.
- Victims of bias crimes have been attacked for being different,
for being misunderstood, and for being hated. Because the basis
for their attack is their identity, they may suffer a deep personal
- Victims of bias crimes are targeted due to a core characteristic
of their identity that is immutable. This may lead to increased
- When a bias crime is committed against a member of a minority
group, the victim frequently perceives the offender as representative
of the dominant culture in society who may frequently stereotype
the victim's culture.
- If their membership in a target group is readily visible,
victims of bias crimes may feel particularly vulnerable to a repeat
attack. This heightened sense of vulnerability may result in the
feeling of hopelessness.
- Victims may become afraid to associate with other members
of the group that has been targeted, or may fear seeking needed
services, believing that these actions increase their vulnerability.
- As a result of the victimization, bias crime victims may respond
by more strongly identifying with their group -- or conversely,
by attempting to disassociate themselves or deny a significant
aspect of their identity.
- Assumptions about life/world view may be shattered. For bias
crime victims who are minorities, this may be particularly devastating
because their world view may have been very different than the
dominant culture's world view.
- It may be very difficult for the bias crime victim to resolve
that the crime was motivated by hatred, as opposed to another
motive such as economics.
- When individuals are targets of hate because of their race,
religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, their victimization
is projected outward to all members of their wider community.
- Other members of the same group feel victimized; members of
other commonly targeted groups are reminded of their vulnerability
to similar attacks.
- Places of worship are often targeted by bias crime offenders;
these attacks on sacred spiritual symbols that may harm victims
more than other acts of vandalism, also harm other members of
(The curriculum material included above is derived
from National Bias Crimes Training for Law Enforcement and
Victim Assistance Professionals: A Guide for Training Instructors,
published by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and
Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council under the U.S.
Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime (award #92DD-CX-K030)
Roles and Responsibilities for Victim Service
Because of the deep and traumatic emotional reactions that victims
of hate and bias-motivated crimes experience, special services
such as the following should be developed to respond to their
- Let the victim express the intense feelings aroused by the
- Provide information to the victim concerning the investigation
and prosecution of their case, both about their case in particular
and the system in general.
- Any hate crime victim who is reluctant or refuses to prosecute
should be carefully interviewed to determine the reasons for the
reluctance or refusal. In many cases, this reluctance can be overcome
by a prosecutor who expresses appropriate concern for the victim,
provides reassurance that the criminal justice system can serve
the victim's interests, and arranges to protect the victim. Prosecutor
programs can also turn to community groups as a resource to help
support reluctant witnesses through the criminal justice system.
- Provide referrals for cross-cultural counseling for victims
of hate crime.
- Legitimize the bias-motivated crime for what it is to the
- Address the crisis of victimization as well as confront the
obvious hate and prejudice exhibited in the crime.
- Assist the victim with completing and filing an application
to the state's victim compensation fund, if applicable.
- Provide the victim with information about victim impact statements
and their importance and use in the justice process; provide them
with the appropriate impact form and offer whatever assistance
they require in preparing their victim impact statement for court
and/or for paroling authorities.
- If there is a conviction in the case, provide a referral for
the victim to the victim liaison in the state department of corrections
or the probation/parole department for a continuation of victim
notification and services concerning their case and the status
of the convicted defendant.
- If there is a conviction in the case, provide the victim with
post-conviction appellate notification and services.
- Inform and educate the victim of hate crimes about the possibility
of civil remedies for the crime committed against them. Refer
them to the local Bar Association for referrals, or to any local
or state nonprofit legal organizations that possibly represent
hate crime victims.
- Be as non-judgmental as possible in dealing with the victim
of hate crimes.
- Improve outreach into the cultural and minority communities
in your jurisdiction. Let the community members know your program
is willing and able to serve victims of bias crime. Members of
community-based advocacy groups in these communities can be helpful
in the prosecution of hate crime cases and the provision of victim
services by providing the following services:
- Locating witnesses to the crime and encouraging them to come
- Locating victims who may have moved and changed phone numbers
without notifying the prosecutor's office.
- Providing emotional support to victims and encouraging them
to continue the prosecution.
- Acting as informal interpreters during pre-trial interviews
and determining the effectiveness of the court-appointed interpreters.
- Acting as "expert witnesses" at the sentencing hearing
as they may be able to testify to the effect of the crime on the
victim, either by discussing cultural issues that others might
not be aware of or by discussing the crime's effect on the community
as a whole.
- Identifying significant dates relevant to the premeditation
of the perpetrator. Community leaders will likely recognize any
intentional choice of a date significant to a religious, ethnic
or other group to commit a premeditated hate crime, and may make
excellent witnesses in court concerning this fact.
- Informing prosecutors of other relevant information, such
as local demographic changes that contribute to a rise in hate
- If you are unfamiliar with the cultural or ethnic group of
a targeted hate crime victim, contact the relevant community media
outlet to obtain a competent referral for assisting with the crime
victim and the case.
- Get in touch with the local gay and lesbian communities. Most
of them will never seek your services until your program shows
that it is willing and able to serve this population. Make this
known on your program's informational materials. For example,
you can state on your brochure that: "Our services are available
to all members of the community, including young persons, the
elderly, persons with disabilities, persons of color, and lesbian
and gay persons."
- Offer to speak to different community groups that will help
you advertise to the community and let every segment know what
services are available for them.
- Adopt an official policy prohibiting discrimination in your
(Focus on the Future: Effective Service Delivery
to Victims of Bias Motivated Crimes; sponsored by the U.S.
Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime, 1994.)
Self Examination Chapter 21, Section 1
Hate and Bias Crimes
1) Complete the following sentence: "Bias crimes
are motivated by hatred against a victim based on his or her __________,
____________, ________ _____________, __________, or __________
2) Identify five indicators of bias crimes.
3) What is one of the effects that group-instigated
crime might have on a victim or community?
4) Identify three effects bias crime has on its victims.
5) What are three of the many roles and responsibilities
that victim service providers fulfill when dealing with bias crime
6) Briefly describe the components of your proposed,
ideal hate and bias crime victim assistance program.
National bias crimes training for law enforcement and victim
assistance professionals: A guide for training instructors.
(1994). Published by the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)
and Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council. Sponsored
by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime
Focus on the future: Effective service delivery to victims
of bias motivated crimes. (1994). Sponsored by the U.S. Department
of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.
To Chapter 21-Section 2
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