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PROTECTING YOUR CIVIL RIGHTS:
Spotlight on Hate Crimes

10/30/03

Stop Hate Crimes graphicOn 9/30, Frank Silva Roque was convicted in Maricopa County Superior Court, Arizona, for the hate crime of shooting dead Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh American. Mr. Sodhi had been standing in front of his gasoline station in Mesa, just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York, when Roque drove by in a pickup and fired at him. He was the first murder victim of the 9/11-related hate crime backlash in America. Roque's conviction and maximum sentencing goes straight to the heart of U.S. justice: hate crimes will not be tolerated.

What is a hate crime? In the case of federal law, it is a crime that involves the use or threat of force against someone (or their property) because of that person's race, religion, and ethnicity/national origin.

FBI responsibilities. Director Mueller may have said it best, "The FBI is the one federal law enforcement entity that enforces the civil rights laws, no matter where or how violations take place. It is a critical component of the FBI -- always has been and always will be."

  • First, we investigate reported hate crimes that violate federal laws and assist our state and local partners with their cases, as needed. FBI cases are focused on preventing and reacting to acts of domestic terrorism...and on investigating acts of pure hate violence that violate the civil rights of Americans. This last, for example, includes the investigation of 507 hate crimes against Arab-, Muslim-, and Sikh Americans since the 9/11 attacks. Eighteen subjects in these cases were charged federally; 164 were charged with related state and local crimes.
  • Second, we keep track. Next month we will publish our 2002 edition of annual Hate Crime Statistics. Our first edition, published in 1992 with 1991 stats, began when Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990. It included statistics from 11 states that had already been collecting hate crime-related information. Today, some 17,000 law enforcement agencies report data to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report program.

Stay tuned. Hate Crime Statistics 2002 will be released and posted on this site on Monday, November 17.

Why is it so important? Only by collecting and reporting the data surrounding bias-motivated offenses can tools be developed to combat these pernicious crimes.