An overwhelming majority of racial-bias crimes perpetrated last year targeted Blacks, says a new FBI report on hate crime.
The yearly survey, published by the civil rights division of the FBI, contains information about the types of biases that motivate hate crimes, the nature of the offenses, and the victims and offenders. Overall, 48 percent of hate crimes were motivated by the victim’s race, 19 percent by religion, 19 percent by sexual orientation and 13 percent by national origin.
Among the findings were statistics for hate crimes targeting Latinos, which accounted for 66 percent of all hate crimes motivated by ethnicity or national origin. Jews were the overwhelming target of religion-based crime (67 percent). In crimes based on sexual orientation, homosexual males were the most frequent target (57 percent).
“Almost a fourth of our 2010 civil rights caseload involved crimes motivated by a particular bias against the victim,” said Eric Thomas, the FBI’s civil rights chief in Washington, D.C. “We frequently worked these cases with state and local law enforcement to ensure that justice was done — whether at the state level or at the federal level."
The number of hate crimes rose only slightly from the previous year, with 6,628 hate crimes reported in 2010 and just 6,604 reported in 2009. However, some say that the FBI figures fall below the actual number of hate crimes that occur each year since many hate crimes are never reported to authorities.
"There have been two major Justice Department studies and the upshot is the real level is about 200,000 hate crimes a year,” Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, told the Jackson, MS, Clarion-Ledger.
The FBI is currently working to revamp the way it collects data to include information for crimes motivated by a bias against a particular gender or gender identity, as well as for hate crimes committed by or directed against juveniles. The push comes as a result of the 2009 James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama, which gives the FBI authority to investigate violent hate crimes, including violence directed at the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The legislation was inspired by the tragic deaths of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., who were savagely murdered at a time when many states did not have designated hate crime laws in place.
(Photo: REUTERS/ERIC THAYER)