Why Does Washington, DC Have Such A Huge Hate-Crime Problem?

Photo: Kevin Wolf/ AP Photo
Washington, DC has a hate-crime problem. New statistics released by the FBI show that the nation’s capital has a rate of crimes based on gender identity at more than 10 times the national rate, DCist reports.

The recently released data shows that, nationally, the vast majority of hate crimes — nearly half — are racially based. The next-highest bias category is sexual orientation, which accounted for a little less than 19%. Gender identity made up for 1.8% of the total number of national hate crimes.

In Washington, DC, hate crimes based on either sexual orientation or gender identity added up to more than half the total number of reported crimes against individuals. Of the 70 reported incidents, a full 29, or 41%, were found to be based on sexual orientation, and 15, or 21%, were based on gender identity. Racial bias, the national front-runner, accounted for only 13 of the 70 incidents.

According to The Anti-Defamation League, Washington, DC, along with 10 states, includes gender identity as punishable under its hate-crime laws — those states are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont. Also, 32 additional states include sexual orientation as a protected category.

There are five states — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming, which is where 21-year-old Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in 1998 — that do not have any hate-crime protections for any group, including race.

Law-enforcement offices are not required to provide statistics on hate crimes to the FBI. The FBI's statement about the report said, "Some data in this publication may not be comparable to those in prior editions of Hate Crime Statistics because of differing levels of participation from year to year." In other words, just because a state reported a low rate of hate crimes doesn't mean that a low rate of crime is occurring.

South Carolina, where nine Black churchgoers were murdered this summer in what has been widely reported as a racially motivated attack, cited only 23 race-related crimes for the entire state of nearly 5 million people — more than 30% of whom are Black or Latino, in 2014. The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that South Carolina is also home to 19 hate groups.

The FBI also warned that it can be extremely difficult to get a full picture of crime patterns without careful study and consistent data.

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