WASHINGTON – The most likely victim of a hate crime in the U.S. is a poor, young, white, single urban dweller, according to an analysis of Justice Department statistics collected from between July 2000 and December 2003.
A November report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics detailing a study of 210,000 "hate crimes" a year during that period has gone virtually unreported by the U.S. press.
But it does contain some surprising numbers. While race is, by far, the No. 1 factor cited as the reason for hate crimes, blacks are slightly less likely to be victims and far more likely to be perpetrators, the statistics show.
As defined by the report, a collection of data compiled by the National Crime Victimization Survey and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, an ordinary crime becomes a hate crime when offenders choose a victim because of some characteristic – race, religion, ethnicity, religion or association – and provide evidence that hate prompted them to commit the crime.
The NCVS is a database of 77,600 nationally representative people interviewed every other year about their experience with crime, while the UCR data is based on law enforcement reports to the FBI.
About 56 percent of hate crimes were motivated, at least in part, by racial hatred, according to the study, and most were accompanied by violence.
While nine in 10,000 whites and nine in 10,000 Hispanics are victimized by hate crimes, only seven in 10,000 blacks are targets, according to the report.
"Generally, per capita rates of hate crime victimization do not appear to vary based upon victim's gender, race, ethnicity or educational attainment," says the report on all hate crimes reported by victims and police. "However, young people; those never married, separated or divorced; those with low incomes; and those living in urban areas did report experiencing hate crimes at higher rates."
In fact, those between the ages of 17 and 20 were far more likely to be victims than in any other age group – with 16 incidents per 10,000 people. Those never married, with 16 incidents per 10,000, or separated or divorced, with 26 incidents per 10,000, were also much more likely to be victims of hate crimes. Those with incomes less than $25,000 faced worse odds of victimization, 13 per 10,000, as well as those in urban areas, also 13 per 10,000.
The report says 38 percent of all those reporting hate crimes said the attacker was black, and in 90 percent of those cases, the victim believed the offender's motive was racial. In incidents involving white attackers, only 30 percent attribute the hate crime to race, while 20 percent attributed it to ethnicity.
The report says 40 percent of white hate crime victims were attacked by blacks, adding, "The small number of black hate crime victims precludes analysis of the race of persons who victimized them."
The report by the Justice Department is the one most often cited by hate-crime experts as depicting the true national story. It shows the number of incidents is more than 15 times higher than FBI statistics alone reflect.
While the annual FBI report, compiled since 1992, is based on voluntary reports from law enforcement agencies around the country, the new report, "Hate Crimes Reported by Victims and Police," found an average annual total of more than 200,000.
"It's an astounding report," said Jack Levin, a leading hate crime expert at Northeastern University. "It's not necessarily completely accurate, but I would trust these data before I trusted the voluntary law enforcement reports to the FBI."
According to the new report, hate crimes involve violence far more often than other crimes. The data show 84 percent of hate crimes were violent, meaning they involved a sexual attack, robbery, assault or murder. By contrast, just 23 percent of non-hate crimes involved violence. Other studies have suggested that hate-motivated violence is more extreme than other violence.
While the press took no notice of the report, it has been praised by pressure groups promoting hate-crimes legislation and enforcement such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for its comprehensiveness and breadth – by far the largest study ever done on hate crimes.
Link to the Bureau of Justice Study
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