Combating Hate Crimes

November 7, 2008

Hate crimes have been around a long time, and the FBI takes these horrific crimes seriously...

Audio Transcript

Mr. Schiff: Hello, I’m Neal Schiff, and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. Today we’re talking about hate crimes.

Ms. Deitle: “The FBI can investigate instances of racial discrimination, religious discrimination, especially those against a religious structure like a church, a mosque, or a synagogue.”

Mr. Schiff: Hate crimes have been around a long time, and the FBI takes these horrific crimes seriously. Supervisory Special Agent Cynthia Deitle is the Acting Chief of the Civil Rights Unit in the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

Ms. Deitle: “A hate crime under most state and federal statutes is a crime which is committed against a person or property and which is motivated in whole or in part by the perpetrators’ bias or animus against the victim’s race or religion or national origin or disability.”

Mr. Schiff: What kind of hate crimes are there? Do they get put into categories?

Ms. Deitle: “They do, and I think some of the states that have passed hate crime legislation are different than the federal statute. Probably the biggest difference that we have in the federal system is that our statute has a requirement that we need some type of force, some type of force or threat of force as part of the crime for the FBI to be able to investigate it. So for example, if you have an action which is forceful where somebody is trying to interfere or intimidate with the victims’ right to engage in a certain activity—like for example, trying to eat at a restaurant, trying to enter a movie theater—and that person is prohibited from doing so because of his race or religion or national origin, that could be considered a federal hate crime. So we’re a little bit more limited than a lot of the other state statutes which are similar.”

Mr. Schiff: There are all kinds of hate crimes, and Special Agent Deitle has investigated them all…

Ms. Deitle: “There are many examples of hate crimes that I can speak to. Some of the crimes that we look at in the FBI, for example, involve housing discrimination. And that’s been quite apparent in the last few years especially with increase in noose instances around the country, in the last year especially. A lot of the nooses that were hung on a private property, on a home for example, were considered a violation of the Fair Housing Statute, because it was seen as a type of force or threat of force which interfered or intimidated with that person’s right to just occupy their home. There also is religious discrimination. If there is an incident of vandalism or damage to a religious structure like a church or a mosque or a synagogue, and the intent of that damage is because of religious animus, that is also a federal hate crime. We have election crimes, which is obviously relevant in the last few months, where we can investigate a violation of election laws if somebody is prohibited from voting, for example, based on their religion, their race, their color, and, if there is, again, some type of force or threat of force. And lastly, the biggest initiative that we have in the FBI is our Cold Case investigation or initiative. We’ve identified about 95 unsolved hate crimes from the Civil Rights era which we’ve now tried to go back and investigate to make sure that we have given these cases all due consideration, which they deserve, quite frankly.”

Mr. Schiff: How is the FBI making inroads to combat hate crimes? Who are we working with?

Ms. Deitle: “I think the FBI has done a fantastic job in all of our 56 field offices with establishing partnerships with local and state and county law enforcement agencies. So we do a good job of coordinating our investigations with a local police department, a state district attorney’s office, and also, and even somewhat more importantly, we’ve established liaison partnerships with a lot of non-governmental organizations like NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, LULAC, CAIR, and various other groups to open up some dialogue with them so that if they hear about a hate crime they can call us and we can respond.”

Mr. Schiff: The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 mandated that the Attorney General collect information about hate crimes. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program in the Criminal Justice Information Services Division compiles the data from input from police agencies across the United States. The Chief of the program, known as UCR, is Greg Scarbro. His staff compiled the latest information…

Mr. Scarbro: “In 2007 the FBI report statistics that about 6,624 incidents involving about 9,006 offenses, were reported to the FBI as the result of a bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, or a physical or mental disability. In looking back at 2006, those stats were slightly higher at about 7,722 criminal incidents involving 9,080 offenses as associated with those particular bias motivations.”

Mr. Schiff: Not only are people victims of hate crimes but property as well…

Mr. Scarbro: “In 2007 we had 5,400 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons. Leading that classification was intimidation which accounted for 47.4 percent of crimes against persons. Simple assaults followed at about 31 percent, and aggravated assaults led behind that at 26.9 percent. Interestingly, nine murders were reported as the result of a hate crime. On the flip side, there were 3,579 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property. Most of those and, actually, 81 percent, were acts of destruction, damage, or vandalism. The remaining 18.6 percent of crimes against property consisted of robbery, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses which included bribery and things such as counterfeiting.”

Mr. Schiff: And Scarbro says hate crimes can be for one reason or multiple reasons.

Mr. Scarbro: “In 2007, of the 7,621 single-bias incidents, and there were three multiple-bias incidents reported, 50.8 percent were motivated by racial bias, 18 percent were motivated by religious bias, 16 percent or closer to 17 percent were motivated by sexual orientation, and 13.2 percent were motivated by ethnicity or national origin bias. One percent involved a bias against a disability.”

Mr. Schiff: Scarbro says sometimes the victims know who’s committing a hate crime against them and sometimes not.

Mr. Scarbro: “In 2007, out of 9,965 known offenders, 62.9 percent were white, 20.8 percent were black, the race of unknown accounted for 9.8 percent, and other races which would include American Indian or Alaska Native and/or Asian Pacific Islander accounted for the remaining unknown offenders.”

Mr. Schiff: There are many locations where criminals commit hate crimes and that data is included in the UCR’s Hate Crimes Statistics for 2007.

Mr. Scarbro: “In 2007 35.7 percent of the hate crimes occurring in the United States occurred in or near homes; 18.9 percent took place on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 11 percent happened at schools or colleges; 6 percent in parking lots or garages and 4 percent in churches, synagogues, or temples. The remaining 29.3 percent of hate crime incidents took place at other specified locations, multiple locations, or unknown locations such as government buildings.”

Mr. Schiff: How does the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program compile these hate crime statistics?

Mr. Scarbro: “The collection of hate crime is reported to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program on a voluntary basis by some 17,000 law enforcement agencies around the country. Obviously the reporting of hate crime by a law enforcement agency is a difficult crime to identify, so we work extensively with those agencies in terms of training and data quality to ensure that the information that the FBI’s receiving and ultimately reporting is the best that it possibly can be.”

Mr. Schiff: If you know anything about a hate crime or that someone is going to commit a hate crime, please call the nearest FBI office or your local police right away. There’s more information on the FBI’s Internet homepage, including the complete UCR Hate Crime Statistics for 2007, at That concludes our show. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

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