Congress has defined a hate crime as a criminal offense motivated by bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.
The data in the latest report comes primarily from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which has been collecting information on crimes motivated by hate since 2003. The statistics bureau is able to gauge the percentage of crimes that go unreported to police because its victimization survey is based on a large, representative sample of Americans interviewed annually by the Census Bureau about their experiences with crime and responses to it.
The Police Foundation’s Bueermann said there is an increased sensitivity on the part of police to the devastating nature of hate crime.
“I certainly saw that in my career,” said Bueermann, who spent 33 years as a Southern California police officer, 13 of them as a police chief.
“If those statistics are accurate, then police chiefs have to focus on the issue of why the members of their communities believe that the police aren’t willing to investigate,” Bueermann said. “I think this underscores the importance of police chiefs repeating these messages over and over and over” urging victims to report hate crimes.
The study found during 2007-11 an estimated annual average of 259,700 hate crimes against people age 12 or older.
The percentage of hate crimes motivated by religious bias more than doubled between 2003-06 and 2007-11 — from 10 percent to 21 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage motivated by racial bias dropped from 63 percent to 54 percent.
In the years 2007-11, whites, blacks and Hispanics had similar rates of violent hate crime victimization.