Hate crimes in the headlines

Nicole Brailer | Contributing Writer

As headlines of hate crimes and violent acts of prejudice continue to dominate the news feeds, we can’t help but wonder, what's in store for Virginia once the 2018 reports are released?

In a phrase that’s frequently used, we look to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Code of Virginia to offer some insight as to what exactly a “hate crime” is. According to § 52-8.5.C. of the code, a hate crime can be summarized as any criminal or illegal act committed against a person with "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."

The categories reported on are typically broken down by crimes against race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability. The offenses committed against these categories include assault, damage/vandalism, robbery and homicide among others. The influences that motivate these acts to occur are endless and may include political leadership, social hate groups, the economy, population increase, and reactions to law enforcement incidents. Whatever the motivation, yearly statistics offer us detailed insight into reported crimes and the 2017 reports show a significant hate crime increase over the past year.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) recently released their yearly Hate Crime Statistics report. The document shows that nationally, from 2016 to 2017, the amount of reported hate crimes has increased overall by approximately 17 percent. The report displays a detailed breakdown of each category which shows that approximately 58 percent of hate crimes were motivated by Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry. The full FBI report can be found at https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017.

When we compare this data to that of the Virginia State Police (VSP) crime report, we see that the state is also experiencing a dramatic increase in incidents. Of the reported hate crimes, Virginia has seen a 47 percent increase from 2016 to 2017. Similar to the FBI report, we see that 44 percent of the offenses committed were racially motivated. The full VSP report can be found at http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Crime_in_Virginia.shtm.

In response to the surging numbers, Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring has taken to Twitter expressing his concern with the increase in these numbers. Herring tweets "We can't be complacent about the rise in hate crimes, and white supremacist violence. It's time for action. Everyone has the right to feel safe in Virginia." Herring has publicly stated that he will continue to propose anti-hate crime legislation and update existing hate crime laws to strengthen their effectiveness. His priorities for Virginia include advocating equality and diversity within the Commonwealth along with launching www.NoHateVa.com. The site offers a user friendly, one stop resource that includes State and Federal Laws, victim resources, and steps on reporting a hate crime.

As for Old Dominion University, President John R. Broderick and his Task Force on Inclusive Excellence recently sent a university wide email to the monarch community. The email reinforces the fact that the University stands behind equality while defending their motto that ODU "Remains committed to diversity, equity and inclusive excellence as an indispensable part of the experience of our campus community members."

The unfortunate truth is that hate crimes are growing exponentially, and they happen all around us. It’s important to raise awareness of these everyday events in an effort to prevent them from becoming the expected norm.

For more information on President Broderick's Task Force on Inclusive Excellence, visit https://www.odu.edu/about/planning/ptie.