Homophobic Hate Crimes Reports Rise in the US

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation remain the third most common type of hate crimes, behind race and religion.

By Jessica Green

Reprinteed with permission from www.PinkNews.co.uk

Statistics from the FBI have shown an 11 per cent rise in reports of homophobic hate crime across America in the last year.

The data, released yesterday (November 23, 2010), shows an overall rise of two per cent for all hate crimes, but this was markedly higher for anti-gay incidents and also for hate crimes based on religion, which rose nine per cent.

It shows that 7,783 hate crimes were voluntarily reported to the agency by participating law enforcement agencies, involving a total of 9,691 victims.

A majority (58 per cent) of the 1,706 victims targeted for their sexual orientation were gay men.

Roughly a third of the cases were physical attacks, another third were intimidation and the remaining third were vandalism or property damage.

The FBI has cautioned that year-to-year comparisons are difficult due to the change in the number of law enforcement agencies which chose to participate.

The number of participating agencies rose by 449, or 3.4 per cent, versus the prior year. It has also been argued that higher rates may be due to more people coming forward to report such crimes.

Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, said: “While it is important to respect the cautions voiced by statistical analysts, the continuing, steady emergence of extremely violent anti-LGBT hate crimes in recent weeks also argues in favor of taking the increase seriously and redoubling prevention efforts."

Marsden was referring to the death of gay Puerto Rican teenager Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, which police are investigating as a hate crime. A gay 16-year-old student in Houston, Texas, was also assaulted with a metal pipe after being threatened.

He continued: “Coming just weeks after President Obama signed new LGBT-inclusive hate crimes provisions, the rise in reported hate crimes against the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is sobering, whether due to increased reporting or increased frequency of the crimes, or both. We all must do more to send the message that these attacks are unacceptable.”