What exactly constitutes a hate crime, and how is its prevalence reflected in the available data?

Although the word “hate” usually implies a strong emotional state of anger or dislike, its legal definition is more precise. Hate refers to bias against particular individuals or groups due to specific characteristics defined by the law instead of indicating an emotional state.

Federal hate crime laws cover offenses committed against someone based on their gender, gender identity, race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or disability. Some states also have comparable laws that protect people who have become victims of a crime motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hate crimes often involve violent actions such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or even threatening or conspiring to commit such offenses. The FBI categorizes assault, murder, and intimidation as crimes against persons, and arson or vandalism as crimes against property.

The FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics program documents hate crime offenses sent to the bureau from various law enforcement personnel at the local, state, and federal levels. While it is essential to recognize that 56% of hate crimes committed between 2010 and 2019 went unreported to the police, the following are some long-term patterns found in reported hate crime data.