Report Shows Increase In Hate Crimes-- Or Does It?

May 21, 2014

Credit WUOT News, Matt Shafer Powell

A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report on hate crimes in Tennessee released Tuesday shows the number of victims victims rose from 297 to 348 in 2013, an increase of 17 percent from 2012. 

But a look into the statistics shows the change may not be as dramatic or disheartening as it seems. 

When investigators suspect a crime might have been motivated by a bias against the victim, it is often categorized as an “unknown” hate crime and it’s included in the annual TBI tally.  However, the crime is removed from the tally if the investigation eventually proves bias had nothing to do with it.  For some reason, TBI officials tell WUOT News this year’s report has an unusually high number of crimes listed as “unknown”.

That statistical abnormality might have something to do with the dramatic increase in the number of people victimized because of their national or ethnic origin in 2013.  This year’s report says that number has tripled over the past three years, from 15 to 96.  However, the TBI says 95 of those 96 crimes are still categorized as “unknown”, meaning bias might eventually be removed as a motive in a large number of them.   

Other findings include (although they’re also subject to change based on incomplete investigations):

* Simple assault was the most commonly reported offense, with perpetrators most likely to use “personal weapons” (hands, feet, teeth, etc.)

* Males were victimized (52.6%) at a higher rate than females (36.8%) .  Males were also more likely to be offenders (73.2%) than females (21.9%)

* Eight crimes were reported as “anti-religion”; four of those were committed against members of the Jewish faith

* The number of African-American victims fell slightly (from 75 to 64), but blacks still constitute the highest percentage of victims (18.4%) in racially-motivated crimes

* Twelve percent of hate crimes in 2013 were targeted at homosexuals (47).