- Hate crimes by the numbers (Photo: Associated Press)
Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released its annual report on bias-motivated crimes committed in the United States. Nationally, hate crimes are on the decline: In 2009, law enforcement agencies across the country reported 6,604 hate crimes to the FBI; in 2008, that number was 7,783. The hate crime count decreased even as the number of local agencies reporting to the FBI spiked, but the national picture is still far from complete—many jurisdictions still don't contribute their own stats to the feds.
Two agencies in the District of Columbia—the Metropolitan Police Department and Metro Transit Police—do submit hate crime data to the FBI. Though D.C. recorded a similar decrease in bias-motivated incidents last year, crimes based on the victim's sexual orientation remained high.
The District of Columbia is the rare jurisdiction where crimes based on sexual orientation dominate hate crime stats. According to the report, almost half of the nation's hate crimes—48.8 percent—are committed based on the victim's race. But in D.C., as many as 85 percent of hate crimes reported to federal law enforcement are based on the victim's sexual orientation.
In 2008, the District reported 30 offenses based on sexual orientation, eight based on race, three based on ethnicity, one based on religion, and zero based on disability. Last year, D.C. again reported 30 based on sexual orientation, but noted a decline in other kinds of hate crimes—2009 recorded three incidents based on race, two based on ethnicity, and zero based on religion or disability. (These figures differ a bit from the District's internal reporting [PDF]).
Nationally, the FBI recorded 1,223 hate crimes based on the victim's sexual orientation, a slight decrease from the 1,297 reported in 2008. Across the United States, sexual orientation bias is only the third most prevalent motive in hate crimes reported to the FBI: 48.8 percent of hate crime victims are targeted based on race, 18.9 percent are targeted for religious belief, 17.8 percent are targeted based on sexual orientation. 13.3 percent are targeted based on ethnicity, and 1.2 percent are targeted based on disability.
The racial dynamics of District hate crimes differ substantially from the national picture. Of national race-based attacks (about half of all hate crimes in the U.S.), 71.5 percent of victims are targeted for being black; 16.5 percent are targeted for being white. Nationally, 62.4 percent of perpetrators of all hate crimes are white; only 18.5 percent of perpetrators are black.
In D.C., though only about 12 percent of hate crime victims were targeted based on either race or ethnicity in 2009. That's not to say that the District is lacking in race issues: While the FBI doesn't release figures on the race of victims and perpetrators on the state level, District hate crimes based on sexual orientation that are reported by local police most often involve black suspects; the race of the victims in these cases varies.
The FBI's national hate crime statistics do not include attacks on one significant group of victims. While the FBI does not release figures based on gender identity, the District of Columbia does. And despite their low representation across the general population, transgender people comprised about 12 percent of hate crime victims in D.C. last year.