A Closer Look at the 2018 Hate Crime Data

The Virginia State Police have published their Crime in Virginia update for 2018, and it is worth noting what Attorney General Mark R. Herring is focusing on in a press release issued today — the fact that marijuana arrests increased 3.5% last year, more than tripling since 1999. No mention of hate crimes.

Last year Herring launched his bid for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination with a roadshow decrying a supposed surge in white supremacist hate crimes. But the number of total hate crimes in Virginia, including those allegedly perpetrated by whites and those allegedly perpetrated against blacks, declined last year, continuing a long-term downward trend.

Not only were there fewer hate crimes reported in Virginia last year, most of them were minor in nature. None were homicides, only one was arson, and only seven were classified as aggravated assault. Given how elected officials and the media have magnified the issue of race and ethnicity in the public discourse today, the fact that race- and ethnic-based hate crimes declined in the Old Dominion last year suggests that the public attitudes and behaviors are not nearly as polarized as those of the political class.

The number of total alleged hate crimes dropped from 202 in 2017 to 161 last year. The number of alleged hate crimes committed against blacks declined from 68 to 62. The number of alleged hate crimes against Hispanics tumbled from 10 to three, against Jews from 22 to 15, and against Muslims from eight to five. The number of alleged hate crimes based on sexual orientation fell from 38 to 23. Compare that to 1,452 assaults on police officers, of which approximately one-fifth resulted in an injury to the officer. 

Also consider that these numbers reflect alleged hate crimes. They do not reflect actual convictions, nor do they account for the fact that a high percentage of reported hate crimes are bogus. As Kentucky State University professor Wilfred Reilly has concluded after extensive review of reported hate crimes in his book “Hate Crime Hoax, “It is probable that at least 15 percent of all reported hate crimes and hate incidents are hoaxes.”

Given the data, it is difficult to maintain a state of hysteria and alarm over a looming white supremacist threat here in Virginia. It may be a winning issue among Democratic Party activists, but it won’t resonate with the broader public. Herring is prudent to drop the issue.

Empirically, Herring stands on firmer ground when he talks about the continued rise in marijuana arrests from fewer than 10,000 in 1999 to nearly 30,000 last year. And he stands on firmer ground in making marijuana arrests a racial issue.  Despite comprising 20% of the population, African Americans accounted for 46% of all first-offense possession arrests between 2007 and 2016.

That doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with the inferences Herring draws from those numbers, just that he doesn’t appear to be torturing the data. Still, the first rule of journalism is to never trust a politician. Elected officials routinely cherry pick data to score rhetorical points. Time permitting, I will check to see if his assertions withstand scrutiny.

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11 responses to “A Closer Look at the 2018 Hate Crime Data

  1. Jim – good point. However, I would focus on the political error – the fact that he’s not taking credit for it. I would think these numbers lend themselves to “Under my watch, hate crimes have decreased. I saw a problem, I campaigned on it, and I am clearly fixing it.”

  2. I believe that he can take credit for being the first state-wide elected official to take a public stand in favor of legalization. I leave it to the (far more knowledgeable than I am) commentariat of this blog as to whether he can create any real political advantage out of that timing.

  3. When the hate crime legislation was originally proposed, the fear was that piling a crime of thought (hate, a crime typically impossible to prove) atop a real crime whose intention and harm was plain and provable on its face would corrupt the law and its enforcement. Hence, the fear a few decades ago was that hate crime legislation would politicize and corrupt crime enforcement rather than enhance its effectiveness.

    That fear has now been realized. These “lower hate crime statistics”, paradoxically, seem to me to reinforce that fear of cheapened crime, made it far more easily fabricated for political or monetary advantage. How can one seriously report ALLEGATIONS of unproven thought crimes as real in the stead of guilty verdicts for illegal criminal actions that have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt? One cannot!

    And where are the hate crimes (alleged or otherwise) by black folks against white folks? Don’t black people hate too, when the commit a crime, or otherwise? Don’t that ever happen?

    Jim Bacon says Attorney General Herring last year “launched his bid for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination with a roadshow decrying a supposed surge in white supremacist hate crimes nationally and in Virginia.” And that “It is worth noting what Attorney General Mark R. Herring is focusing on in a press release issued today — the fact that marijuana arrests increased 3.5% last year, more than tripling since 1999. No mention of hate crimes.” Advice to Jim Bacon – Don’t hold your breath. The white hate part is coming once the primaries are over.

    But for now, and then later after the primaries are over where will Attorney General Herring’s concern be about ” the 1,452 assaults on police officers, of which approximately one-fifth resulted in an injury to the officer.” .

  4. “Also consider that these numbers reflect alleged hate crimes. They do not reflect actual convictions, nor do they account for the fact that a high percentage of reported hate crimes are bogus.”
    And they do not reflect the immensely subjective nature of what is a “hate crime” to a Sheriff/Chief or Commonwealth’s Attorney as shown by the fact that the ghastly murder of Nabra Hassanen in Sterling was NOT treated as such.

  5. I wonder if there is any more information for that high figure of 202 in 2017? For example, did every incident at the Rally/Riot in Charlottesville in August 2017 count as one hate crime?

  6. Some clarification is needed as to what constitutes a “hate crime”. Contrary to what the term implies, it is not a “crime of thought”, as Reed phrased it. For a number of offenses, the Code of Virginia imposes a more severe penalty if an offender intentionally selects the person against whom an offense is committed because of the victim’s race, religious conviction, color or national origin. Therefore, the prosecution would have to prove that the accused (i) committed the offense and (2) he committed it against the victim because of the victim’s race, etc.

    The State Police data is the result of a Code requirement that the agency report “hate crimes” as defined thusly:
    “(i) a criminal act committed against a person or his property with the specific intent of instilling fear or intimidation in the individual against whom the act is perpetrated because of race, religion or ethnic origin or that is committed for the purpose of restraining that person from exercising his rights under the Constitution or laws of this Commonwealth or of the United States, (ii) any illegal act directed against any persons or their property because of those persons’ race, religion or national origin, and (iii) all other incidents, as determined by law-enforcement authorities, intended to intimidate or harass any individual or group because of race, religion or national origin.”
    Law enforcement agencies are required to report arrest data to the State Police in a standard format. I assume that format has the needed fields that local police and sheriff agencies can use to designate charges made under the various Code sections that provide for increased penalties for offenses directed against persons because of their race, etc.

    • So Dick, based on your comment, do you conclude that Jim’s above post and my response to the details of his post are all without merit, and false?

  7. Jim was reporting the facts–the number of reported arrests for offenses characterized as “hate crimes” has decreased.

    • Jim did not report facts, he reported allegations. And he expressed concern as to how those allegations might be used by politicians running for office, including a Virginia Attorney General.

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