Hatred fueled by prejudice and bias has motivated criminal acts throughout history and hate crimes continue to challenge the safety and well-being of people in the United States.
The term "hate crime" was coined in the 1980s by journalists and policy advocates who were attempting to describe a series of incidents directed at African Americans, Asians, and Jews. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has since defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin."
While hate crime laws have been enacted at the federal and state level, they differ from state to state.
Although hate crime legislation has been passed in nearly every jurisdiction, it's difficult to accurately estimate the prevalence of these crimes in America. National hate crime data comes from two primary sources: the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program and the Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS's) National Crime Victimization Survey. But the two agencies collect differing types of data, making it difficult to assess the prevalence of hate crimes.
The primary difference between the two is that the FBI only counts crimes that are reported to police. In contrast, through the National Crime Victimization Survey, BJS collects information from victims, who are asked if they think hate played a role in the crime.
As they have for decades, hate crimes continue to challenge the safety and well-being of people in the United States. Thus, the crime victim services field is also challenged with identifying the needs of hate crime victims and working diligently to help meet those needs and assist in their recovery.
Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal agencies: