5 Ways: Learn Image
1. Know and understand your local hate crime laws. They differ from state to state, and city to city.

Federal hate crime law includes offenses motivated by the victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or expression, or disability. The Shepard-Byrd Act only applies to violent felonies such as murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping or rape. State-level hate crime laws vary widely. Some also include misdemeanors such as vandalism or property damage, threats, or intimidation. They also cover different types of victims.

  • 31 states and DC include sexual orientation among protected victims
  • 18 states and DC include gender identity or gender expression
  • 5 states have no state-level hate crimes law (Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Wyoming)
5 Ways: Report
2. If you see something, say something!

The only way to get hate crime statistics to be more accurate is to report. We understand that much like sexual assault, victims are afraid to come forward out of fear of being re-victimized. We live in a precarious time right now–one where you can get fired from your job for being LGBTQ+. We understand that immigrants are living in fear of ICE and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. But in many places, mayors and the police have pledged to serve its citizens regardless of immigration status.

Don’t just report to your local police. Go to the FBI. Report to state, local, and federal law enforcement so that there are many records of the incident.

5 Ways: Coordinate
3. Coordinate a hate crimes training where you live.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation offers training for law enforcement, prosecutors, community members, and everyone in between. Training for law enforcement agencies is necessary if officers are to effectively investigate hate crimes and report them accurately each year to the FBI.

Unfortunately, not all law enforcement agencies require officers to undergo hate crimes trainings. The most important first step you can take is to find out if your local police department and sheriff department have such requirements. If you are unsure on how to reach out, contact us for assistance.

5 Ways: Engage
4. Engage with your police departments if you have questions about their data.

If you believe the local hate crimes data is flawed or incomplete, reach out to your local police department or FBI office and ask about the numbers. Simple questions include what goes into their reporting and whether the reporting is mandatory.

5 Ways: Improve
5. If you think your local hate crime statute is insufficient, advocate for improvements.

There are organizations all over the country looking to improve your hate crime laws and more broadly protect its citizens. Join agencies like the regional Anti-Defamation League or Human Rights Campaign and make your voice heard.