According to an annual report released this week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, there were 57 total hate-crimes incidents in Pennsylvania in 2010, 10 of which were related to sexual orientation, compared with 46 total crimes the previous year, five of which were motivated by sexual orientation.
The increase amounts to a nearly 7-percent spike in LGBT-related crimes between the two years and breaks a six-year trend in which crimes motivated by sexual orientation either decreased or held steady.
Ted Martin, executive director of Equality Pennsylvania, noted an estimate that only about 10 percent of hate crimes are being properly reported as such and that, while any rise in actual crimes is unwanted, it could also reflect better reporting.
“In a sick way, the fact that the number went up, while it’s disturbing, means that more people are reporting hate crimes, which is honestly a good thing,” Martin said. “It means that more people are understanding what’s going on and police are able to better identify hate crimes. Pennsylvania has been notoriously bad at reporting hate crimes — we have a very low ratio when it comes to other states that surround us — so the increase could mean that more people are aware of hate crimes and willing to report them.”
Sexual orientation was the second-most-common motivating factor in a hate crime in Pennsylvania, claiming that spot for the first time since 2004 over religious-based crimes, which fell to third. Thirty-three of the incidents were race-related, eight were motivated by the victims’ religion and six were related to ethnicity.
In Philadelphia, eight hate crimes were reported in 2010, two of which were motivated by the victims’ sexual orientation, the same number as incidents related to race, religion and ethnicity. In 2009, Philadelphia reported six incidents, none of which were related to sexual orientation.
Elsewhere in the state, two LGBT-related crimes were reported each in Pittsburgh and at Penn State University, and one in Harrisburg, Reading, Lawrence County and at West Chester University.
Nationally, there was a slight increase in the total number of hate crimes between 2009-10, from 6,604 to 6,628, as well as in the number of LGBT-related crimes, from 1,223 to 1,277.
Pennsylvania’s 2010 LGBT crimes comprised about 17.5 percent of the total number of incidents, putting it slightly below the national average of 19 percent.
Of the national sexual orientation-related crimes, about 58 percent were categorized as anti-male and 27 percent as anti-female.
Most of the overall incidents were classified as “crimes against persons,” the bulk of which were simple assaults and acts of intimidation.
Nationally, there were six hate-crime-related murders and four rapes. Two of the murders and one rape were reported as LGBT-related.
The majority of the LGBT crimes were simple assaults, followed by intimidation, vandalism and aggravated assault. Most of the incidents took place within a residence, followed by on the street, at an unnamed location, at a school, in a parking lot and at a bar.
In the past few years, the number of law-enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania submitting data to the FBI varied, although higher participation did not necessarily correlate to greater numbers of reported crimes; for instance, in 2006, 27 agencies reported 97 total crimes, while in 2008, 31 agencies participated for a total of 68 crimes.
In 2010, 31 agencies throughout Pennsylvania participated, an increase from the previous year’s 22.
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.