New FBI Hate Crime Statistics Confirm Need for Stronger Federal Response

For Immediate Release

New FBI Hate Crime Statistics Confirm Need for Stronger Federal Response

NEW YORK - 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.

Although there was a slight increase in the number of police
jurisdictions that took part in the reporting - an important step
toward an understanding of the full extent of the problem - the fact
that almost 15,500 (out of a total of 17,500) still don't report at all
or report zero hate crimes, suggest that these figures represent only a
portion of the actual number. For example, three hate crimes were
reported in Georgia and none were reported in Mississippi for 2007,
where the participating law enforcement agencies covered only 7% and
24% of the total population of the states, respectively.

  • Senior political
    leaders and law enforcement officials at all levels of government
    should condemn violent hate crimes, incitement to violence, and the
    demonization of any community, including immigrants, regardless of
    their status.
  • The Department of
    Justice and/or the Department of Homeland Security should study the
    causes of increased bias-motivated violence against immigrants and
    Hispanic Americans, and report publicly on the findings.

"The United States can show continued international leadership on
hate crimes by enhancing its response at home," added Stahnke. Human
Rights First's recent report on the United States is part of its 2008 Hate Crime Survey,
which concluded that incidents of violent hate crime targeting a number
of minority groups are increasing or occurring at historically high
levels in many of the 56 countries in Europe, North America, and the
former Soviet Union that comprise the Organization of Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as governments fail to adequately combat
such crimes. That full report is available at: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/discrimination/pages.aspx?id=157

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