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FBI: Surge in Hate Crimes Largest Since 9/11

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on November 14, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The number of hate crimes reported in 2016 was already the most in the past five years. That trend sadly continued into 2017, with the FBI reporting a surge in hate crimes unseen since the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Especially troubling was the spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes, coupled with several incidents (like the murder of Heather Heyer during a white supremacist rally) that the FBI failed to classify as hate crimes.

The report brings up a lot of questions about hate crimes in general. Here are some of those, along with some answers:

1. What's the Difference Between Hate Crimes and Terrorism?

Obviously, there is some overlap between the two, but hate crimes tend to focus on the victim (with criminal statutes noting a person's "actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin"), while acts of terrorism can include victims from any background that are intended to intimidate civilians or influence government action.

2. Are Anti-Gay Assaults Hate Crimes?

Not all states have hate crime statutes. And not all those that do include protections for LGBT victims. Even West Virginia's hate crime law, which purports to cover civil rights violations "because of ... sex," was deemed to not include anti-gay assaults.

3. Can Calling the Cops Be a Hate Crime?

Silly question, right? But it seems less silly in light of the way many people -- almost all white -- have weaponized 911 calls against non-white neighbors. One white woman even called the cops on a black state senator while he was campaigning on her street. So, is there any recourse for these victims?

4. Hate Crime Protection for the Homeless?

State statutes on hate crimes can vary. And after a surge in violence against homeless persons, Maryland led the way in including its homeless population in protections provided by laws against hate crimes.

5. What Criminal Laws Protect Reporters From Assault?

Violent attacks on members of the press have also increased in recent years. Just this summer a gunman killed five people in Maryland's Capital Gazette newsroom. Even though those reporters were targeted because of their press affiliation -- and freedom of the press is protected by the Constitution -- hate crime statutes do not extend to cover journalists or reporters.

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