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 laws prohibit physical violence, threats of violence, and property damage if the actions of the offender are motivated by the victim’s real or perceived race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.  The Shepard-Byrd law specifically prevents violent conduct against a person if that violence is perpetrated against the victim because she belongs to a certain protected class.  State hate crime laws vary in terms of the conduct prohibited and the possible sentences imposed.  Some state hate crime laws include provisions for civil remedies and some include provisions mandating that their law enforcement officers receive a certain number of hours of training on hate crime enforcement and reporting.

  • 21 states and DC include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity among other protected classes (ME, VT, NY, MA, CT, RI, NJ, HI, DE, MD, VA, IL, MO, MN, CO, NM, UT, NV, AZ, WA, OR)
  • 12 states include protections for sexual orientation as one of the their protected classes (NH, KY, TN, GA, FL, LA, TX, WI, IA, NE, KS, AZ)
  • 14 states do not include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity (AL, AK, ID, MI, MS, MT, NC, ND, OH, OK, PA, SD, UT, WV)
  • 4 states have not state-level hate crimes laws (AR, IN, SC, WY)
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 supports 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.