Attacks against LGBT not reported as hate crimes: report
In this case, the definition of a hate crime by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is “a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.”
The definition notes this bias targets “a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
Hate crimes not being charged
Despite this definition, proponents of the law prefer to charge suspects with ‘regular’ criminal charges instead of as a hate crime.
This is because despite the landmark 2009 Shepard-Byrd Act that recognizes attacks on LGBT people as hate crimes, state laws that were implemented after were poorly written and make convictions difficult.
Likewise, because there is no comprehensive nationwide system to track bias crimes, there are no nationwide programs to train police and prosecutors on how to properly investigate hate crimes.
This results in prosecutors advocating the strategy of reporting possible hate crimes as ‘regular’ criminal charges instead to avoid weakening their argument before a jury.
“It is important to charge, even if you’re not going to get a few more years, because you’re telling the community you will not tolerate this,” said Jack McDevitt, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts, who studies hate crimes.
“But many prosecutors will not take that risk,” McDevitt said.
Hate crimes also being underreported
On another matter, though the FBI documented 1,178 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation in 2014, a Justice Department survey found out that 59,000 were victims of hate crimes with half of that admitting they didn’t report the attack to the police.
“We don’t believe in police,” said Arianna Lint, a Peruvian transgender woman who runs TransLatina, a support group for transgender women of color in South Florida.
“In small towns, they call us ‘freaks’ and ‘it’,” Lint said.
McDevitt pointed out that he has found bias among police officers, especially toward transgender people: “Police are not in many cases receptive. They blame the victim for being transgender and somehow deserving of being attacked.”
LGBT still being targeted in hate crimes
Coupled with the Reuters report, it doesn’t help that the New York Times analyzed the recent release of FBI statistics on hate crime for the year 2014 and discovered that the “LGBT were already the most likely targets of hate crimes in America.”
Based on FBI data, almost a fifth of the 5,462 so-called single-bias hate crimes that were reported in 2014 were because of the victim’s sexual orienttation– or sometimes their perceived orientation.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said, that this was probably to the fact that as society becomes more accepting of LGBT people, some elements of the same society become more radicalized.
As LGBT advocate Star Palmer lamented, “Why is it so hard to prove a hate crime is a hate crime?”