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In many cities throughout the United States, the prevalence of hate crimes has increased. To understand this dilemma which has become problematic in cities and urban neighborhoods across the country we must first look at how hate crime is defined, who commits these offenses, and the reasoning behind them.
What defines a hate crime: "A hate crime, also known as a bias crime, is 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." (Department of Justice, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2004, p. 1)
Hate crimes are generally associated with race and or ethnicity, White verses Black; Latino verses Black; Black verses White and Latino; White verses a Jew, and so on. As stated in the definition given by the FBI hate crimes can be non violent offenses or crimes against property such as spray painting someone's home with graffiti, or they can become crimes against person in the form of assault, robbery, rape or even murder. Hate crimes are generally crimes of ignorance caused by, and stemming from, ignorance and intolerance.
A profile of a typical hate crime offender would be this; a young male in his late teens or early twenties who suffers from socially disorganization that may or may not be involved in gang related activities. According to a study done by Social scientists' Levin and McDevitt who have written many books of hate crimes hate crime offenders are defined by three distinct categories. "The first; "thrill-seekers," the largest group, most often consists of youths and most often represents individuals who commit such crimes because of boredom, to have fun, and to feel strong. The second category; "reactionists," are interested in protecting their resources from intruders. The last category is "Mission offenders," which is composed of those who believe they are appealing to a higher authority by eradicating an inferior group." (The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2003, p. 1) The common underlining factor between the three categories is that each group is represented by a disproportional amount of young male offenders.
Most hate crimes are not committed by hate groups but by individuals. "Data from victims' reports in a study of jurisdictions in New York City and in Baltimore County Maryland have suggested that offenders in bias crimes are even more likely than offenders in non bias crimes to be young and male. Nationally, the majority of bias-motivated offenders are young men in their late teens and early 20s" (The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2003, p. 1)
It would seem the most accurate profile of a hate crime offender would be a young male of any color living in a city or urban environment who is either prejudice or feels threatened by other ethnicities, may be socially disorganized and or frustrated, or may be just plain bored and hanging out in socially dysfunction groups.
Who are some targets and/or victims of hate crimes?
The largest precipitant of hate crimes would seem to be racial bias, with African Americans being the most targeted group. "In 1996 the FBI reported that approximately sixty percent of hate crimes were perpetrated because of race with close to two-thirds of the majority of those crimes being committed against African Americans. Ethnic minorities are often perceived as foreigners in the United States have they have increasingly become the targeted victims of hate crimes even though in some case their families may have been here for generations. Resentment of ethnic minorities can be caused by a fear of losing jobs when so-called immigrants succeed or when they are perceived to be as acting against the established norm by practicing their native customs and traditions." (The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2003, p. 1)
What are some of the causes and effects of these crimes?
Causes: In a 1999 study by Karen Umemoto, Ph.D. i.e., "A Profile of Race-bias Hate Crimes in Los Angeles County" Dr. Umemoto breaks down the cause of hate crimes into four categories. "In her study she found that 72% of the hate crimes in the Los Angeles area stemmed from race or ethnic bias, 14% were the result of religious bias, another 14% were the result of sexual orientation bias, and 1% of all the hate crimes came from other sources." (Umemoto & Mikami, 1999, p. 1) Based on her study it would seem that 99% of hate crimes stem from racial, ethnic, religious bias as well as homophobia.
Effects: Hate crimes in one way or another have many effects that can affect many lives in a negative manor. The victims, their families, friends, and even the perpetrators are also usually affected in a negative manor. Hate crimes can range from a mild disturbance to property damage and even crimes against persons. They can leave people physically or emotionally scarred for life. Another negative connotation to hate crimes per se would be the cost to taxpayers to maintain law and order; as well as monies spend to study them in an effort to deter or prevent them.
What actions can be taken to minimize the occurrence of hate crimes?
"Research has concluded that society can intervene to reduce or prevent many forms of violence, especially among young people, including the hate induced violence that threatens and intimidates entire categories or groups of people." (The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2003, p. 1) "It was recommended to prevent hate crimes, law enforcement agencies, state and federal agencies, public interest groups, and schools should work together to identify and track hate crimes and to mitigate the conditions that foster them." (The American Journal of Psychiatry, 2003, p. 1) To make a long story short, education and community involvement would go a long way to foster knowledge and understanding, two key ingredients to overcome any form of bias. Hopefully as society makes its way forward enlightenment though education and understanding will forge new relationships of tolerance.
In conclusion: Hate crimes are generally crimes of anger. They stem from racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual orientation bias. They are for the most part senseless crimes resulting in property damage, assaults against persons, rapes, and murders. When a hate crime is committed there are no winners only losers.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and the key is enlightenment through education and reestablishing a moralistic society with social values, something that seems to be lost due to non commitment of family values and social disorganization in modern times.