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Crime data.

While not typical, these crimes' offend all who recognize them for what they are: Bias crimes committed against a person or property, motivated by offenders' hatred. Generally carried out in anonymity and usually by groups under the cover of darkness, these offenses target persons, or their property, simply because of the color of their skin, their religion, their heritage, or their sexual orientation.

Hate crimes pose a real threat to our Nation and to the diverse peoples that make this Nation a community. In an effort to determine the extent of this threat, Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990. The act mandates the Attorney General to acquire data concerning crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, ethnicity/national origin, religion, or sexual orientation. This includes, where appropriate, the crimes of murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, intimidation, and destruction/damage/vandalism of property. The Attorney General, following the urging of Congress, tasked the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program to develop a data collection program for its 16,000 law enforcement agency participants.

UCR Hate Crime Statistics

Program

Having anticipated the Act's passage, the FBI thoroughly studied the issue and determined that the development And implementation of a national hate crime statistics program needed a new and different approach. At the same time, UCR program managers wanted to avoid placing major new reporting burdens on contributing law enforcement agencies. To address this primary concern, the FBI made two major decisions at the outset of the program's design.

First, the collection of hate crime data would be an adjunct to UCR's current collection of crime data. Hate crimes would not be considered as separate, distinct crimes, but rather as traditional offenses motivated by the offender's bias. For example, an offender may commit arson because of racial bias. UCR did not create a whole new crime category to record this crime; instead, it collected hate crime data by merely capturing additional information about crimes already being reported to UCR.

Second, the FBI limited the types of bias motivation to be reported. There are, of course, many kind of bias; the Act names the more common ones. But, bias also exists against rich people, poor people, men who wear long hair/beards, smokers, drinkers, etc. Therefore, UCR limited the types of bias reported to those mandated by the enabling Act - prejudice against a race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnic group. And, because of the difficulty in determining an offender's subjective motivation, UCR asked law enforcement agencies to report bias only if the investigation revealed sufficient objective facts to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that bias motivated, in whole or in part, the offender's actions.

Although existing comprehensive statistics on the incidence of hate crimes do not exist, the limited statistics being gathered in current State and local hate crime programs indicate that the number of hate crimes reported annually throughout the United States do not constitute a major reporting burden. Therefore, hate crime reporting should not require large new commitments of personnel and other resources by Federal, State, and local UCR data contributors.

Guidelines

With the cooperation and assistance of some of the law enforcement agencies already collecting hate crime information,(1) and a broad coalition of human interest groups, UCR program managers developed a system and guidelines for hate crime data collection within these established parameters. Included in reporting of hate crimes was information about prejudice motivating the designated offenses, the place where the crimes occurred, and the victims and offenders. Law enforcement agencies could then opt to report these crimes either in conjunction with their regular UCR submissions or separately in quarterly hate crime reports.

Training

To facilitate hate crime data collection, UCR personnel conducted 14 regional training conferences nationwide for local law enforcement agencies regarding the investigation and reporting of hate crimes. The participants of these sessions represented each of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, including all law enforcement agencies serving populations over 100,000. The latter agencies represent approximately 77% of die total U.S. population. In addition, UCR provided training to Federal investigative personnel.

Data Collection

A number of law enforcement agencies across the country already submit hate crime data to the FBI, and initial response indicates that implementation of the program will move rapidly. As with all national data collection, however, participation must grow considerably before a valid nationwide assessment of the hate crime problem can be made.

In the interim, the FBI, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the Association of State UCR Programs are jointly preparing a resource book containing available 1990 hate crime data from States and local agencies operating longstanding hate crime programs. This publication will also contain other useful information relative to State-specific hate crime legislation and strategies.

Future FBI plans include an annual publication focused solely on hate crimes, along with topical studies highlighting unique aspects of hate crime occurrences. While the Hate Crimes Statistics Act expires after 5 years, the FBI considers the statistics collection a permanent addition to the UCR Program.

A number of law enforcement associations(2) endorse the FBI's Hate Crime Statistics Program. These endorsements are crucial to the successful implementation of the program. Without law enforcement's voluntary data collection and support, the effort would be doomed to failure.

Conclusion

National hate crime statistics will result in greater awareness and understanding of the true dimensions of the problem nationwide. This, in turn, will result in added benefits. Specifically, law enforcement will be better able to quantify their resource needs and do a better job directing available resources to areas where they will be most effective.

Law enforcement continues to demonstrate progressive, professional competence in developing imaginative approaches to criminal problems. With its response to hate crime legislation, law enforcement shows that same enthusiastic, proactive attention not only to a criminal problem but also to a societal scourge that has even more adverse consequences.

The Hate Crime

Statistics Act

* A burning cross ignites the fears of a neighborhood and a community....

* A family's dream of peace and security quickly shatters when vandals break all the windows in their home....

* A victim suffers a brutal beating because of sexual orientation - a battering of dignity as well as the body....

* Hideous symbols of hate deface a synagogue, thereby indelibly marking a people and a community with fears from the past acted out in the present....

Endnotes

(1) Maryland State Police; Baltimore County, Maryland, Police Department; Boston, Massachusetts, Police Department; New York City, New York, Police Department; Chicago, Illinois, Police Department. (2) The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association, the UCR Data Provider's Advisory Police Board, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, and the Association of State Uniform Crime Reporting Programs.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Article Type:Column
Date:May 1, 1992
Words:1138
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