Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

 

The information provided above is only a generalized description of hate crimes. You must go beyond what is required by the UCR in terms of hate-crimes classifications to combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

To begin, consider implementing a two-stage review of hate-crime classifications. This review process will capture more hate crimes and lead to improved hate-crime recording by police and thus more accurate data that will produce better analyses. Under this system the responding police officers initially apply broad criteria (that captures even suspected hate crimes) that are subsequently reviewed by specially trained members of a hate-crime unit (or a specially trained supervisor in smaller police departments) who conduct follow-up investigations. Collecting and analyzing accurate statistics on the scope and trends of hate crimes is an important step in preventing and responding to hate crimes.40

Neighborhoods may be composed of different groups, have varying levels of hate crimes, and experience different types of hate crimes. It is also likely that these characteristics can change significantly over time. Various targeted communities will have higher or lower levels of reporting their victimizations to the police. Different communities and neighborhoods will thus need to be analyzed separately. Disaggregating hate crimes by victim groups (e.g., Black, gay, Jewish, Muslim) will identify which groups are more vulnerable. Disaggregating by location will identify "hot spots" and problematic areas. Similarly, having an understanding of which communities are least likely to report hate-crime victimizations (e.g., disabled individuals) should inform your personnel- and resource-allocation decisions in addressing hate crimes and encouraging reporting. Tracking and categorizing hate-crime offenders (e.g., thrill-seekers versus mission perpetrators) will document which ones pose the greatest threat in your jurisdiction. For example, thrill-seeking hate-crime offenders may target any vulnerable minority while defenders may only focus on those viewed as a threat to their community.41

 

Stakeholders

In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the hate-crime problem and ought to be considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it:

  • Mental health officials may be able to assist in crafting responses to hate crimes committed by those with mental illnesses, especially mission offenders.
  • Watch groups (e.g., the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) could provide their own data on hate-crime incidents against certain minority groups and information on organized hate groups, assist in police training initiatives, and help efforts to enhance relations between the police and minority communities.
  • Community organizations representing hate-crime victims could assist victims in coping with their crimes, help victims navigate the legal system, act as a bridge between the police and the victim, work to reduce fear and trauma in the minority community, and assist in maintaining community and police relations.
  • Community organizations from the offender's community could help reduce tension in the majority community, create an environment that does not tolerate hate crimes, and build a dialogue with the minority community.
  • The general media, and minority media outlets, could educate the public about hate crimes, help reduce fear and tension and create a sense of calm in the community, encourage hate-crime reporting, and reinforce the message that such crimes will not be tolerated.
  • Schools, colleges, and universities could sponsor hate/violence-prevention response networks, assemblies, and programs that publicize the strategies of hate groups; promote diversity and teach about tolerance; feature curricula on intergroup relations; and foster police and community dialogue. These institutions could also work with the police to improve hate-crime reporting in these institutions.
  • Victim services organizations could help victims cope with the physical and psychological injuries, aid them as they engage the legal system, and assist them in their reintegration into the community.
  • Academics could cooperate with police by analyzing hate crimes to identify characteristics of these crimes disaggregated by minority group, crime type, location, and offender type. This will aid police in deciding which prevention strategies to use, and their allocation of resources.
  • Other federal, state, and local government agencies (e.g., federal and community relations services, or offices of victim assistance) can help the police craft responses to hate crimes that empower individual victims and their communities, and educate the public.

 

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of hate crimes, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.

Community Characteristics

  • Is your jurisdiction demographically diverse?
  • Does your jurisdiction have highly visible minority populations (e.g., African American, Orthodox Muslims, or Orthodox Jews) or buildings (e.g., Jewish or Muslim institutions) associated with them?
  • Are any areas in your jurisdiction undergoing demographic change?
  • Is there racial, ethnic, or other community tension in your area?
  • Is there tension between certain communities and police?
  • Are there locations in your jurisdiction that are socially disorganized and/or are "hot spots" for "regular" crime?

Incidents

  • How many hate crimes have occurred in your jurisdiction?
  • What is the breakdown of hate crimes in terms of types of offenses (e.g., violent versus property offenses)?

Victims

  • Why do some victims choose not to report their hate-crime victimizations?
  • Which minority groups are most/least targeted by hate-crime offenders? What is the breakdown of hate victimization by minority group (e.g., percentage of crimes that are anti-African American, Anti-Latino, or anti-gay)?
  • What percentage of hate-crime victims are under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the commission of the crime?
  • How have hate-crime victims reacted to these offenses?
  • How often do victims use community resources or victim-advocacy organizations?

Offenders

  • What are the characteristics of hate-crime offenders (e.g., age, ethnicity, education level, and occupation)?
  • What motivates offenders to commit these crimes (e.g., for thrills, to defend their community, in retaliation, or to express hateful attitudes and beliefs)?
  • What percentage of hate-crime offenders use a weapon? What type of weapon?
  • What percentage of hate-crime offenders are under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the commission of the crime?
  • How far from the crime scene do offenders live?
  • How many offenders tend to participate in hate-crime incidents (one perpetrator, two, more than three)?

Locations and Times

  • Where do hate crimes occur? Are there hot spots?
  • Are victims attacked in their own neighborhood? The offender's neighborhood? Another location?
  • Do hate crimes tend to occur on specific "meaningful" dates?
  • On what days of the week do most hate crimes occur? At what time of day?

Current Responses

  • Do police offer and/or collaborate with community organizations to offer programs to educate citizens about hate crimes, reduce victim vulnerability, and encourage reporting?
  • How have the larger communities that were targeted by hate-crime offenders reacted to these crimes?
  • What community programs are available to educate the public about crimes? To aid victims of hate crimes? To encourage reporting of hate crimes? Has anyone assessed their effectiveness?
  • What strategies have been used to combat the commission of hate crimes? Has anyone assessed their effectiveness?
  • What percentage of reported hate crimes do police clear by arrest? What percentage do prosecutors take to court? What percentage of offenders accused of hate crimes are convicted?
  • What types of sentences do convicted hate-crime offenders receive?

 

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results.

You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. You should take all measures in both the target area and the surrounding area. For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 1, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers and Problem-Solving Tools Guide No. 10, Analyzing Crime Displacement and Diffusion.

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to hate crime. Process measures show the extent to which responses were properly implemented. Outcome measures show the extent to which the responses reduced the level or severity of the problem.

Process Measures

  • Increased number of people willing to report hate crimes
  • Increased number of officers trained in how to respond to hate crimes
  • Increased number of officers who take policing hate crimes seriously
  • Increased number of officers who respond to and interact with sensitivity with hate-crime victims
  • Increased interactions, communication, and cooperation between the police and targeted minority communities about hate crimes
  • Improvements in how hate crimes are investigated
  • Increased number of officers who correctly recognize and categorize hate crimes
  • Increased number of community members, both majority and minority, who express trust in the police
  • Increased number of people in the community, both majority and minority members, who express support for tolerance and diversity, and outrage against hate crimes
  • Increased compatibility between the number of hate-crime victims reporting their victimization to the police and the number who report to watch groups or in victimization surveys

Outcome Measures

  • Decreased number of hate crimes in your community
  • Decreased severity of harm caused by hate crimes (even if the number of hate crimes stays the same)
  • Decreased fear of becoming a hate-crime victim
  • Decreased number of hate groups in your community