FBI reports 1 in 5 bias crimes are against LGBTQ people

The FBI has released its annual Hate Crime Statistics report, which concluded that LGBTQ people are targeted in nearly one in five hate crimes. In Philadelphia alone, the number of such reported crimes has doubled in just two years.

Of the 7,120 hate crime incidents reported in 2018, 1,347 — 19 percent — were anti-LGBTQ crimes, according to the FBI’s new report. LGBTQ people comprise about 5 percent of the U.S. population.

Of the nearly 1,200 incidents targeting people due to their sexual orientation, the majority targeted gay men (60 percent). About 13 percent targeted lesbians, 1.5 percent targeted bisexuals, 1.4 percent targeted heterosexuals, and the remaining incidents targeted mixed groups of LGBTQ people. Transgender and gender-nonconforming people were the targets of 168 reported incidents, approximately 2.4 percent of all reported hate crime incidents in 2018. Trans and gender-nonconforming people saw the largest increase in incidents.

Lauren Cox, Deputy Communications Director for the Office of the Mayor, told PGN, “The reported rise in hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ+ community in 2018 is deeply disturbing. Members of our marginalized communities are being assaulted every day — mentally, verbally, physically and emotionally.”

Cox said, “The fact that this most recent report from the FBI shows an increase in violent crimes is also concerning. Despite the fact that the U.S. is experiencing a decline in violent crime in general, interpersonal violence driven by bias is on the rise.”

The new FBI report underscores Cox’s points. While violence has trended down in the FBI’s annual Crime Reports overall, one of the changes in bias crimes in the FBI Hate Crimes Report is that these crimes are trending more and more toward crimes against people rather than crimes against property — the difference between targeting property with anti-gay slurs versus an assault against a gay person. 

LGBTQ advocacy groups link the increase in hate crimes to the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and policies of the Trump administration.

In 2016, 1,180 anti-LGBTQ hate crimes were reported. There has been a nearly 15 percent increase in only two years. Of all anti-LGBTQ hate crimes, incidents against trans and gender-nonconforming people increased the most.

Cox said, “At a time when hateful words and policies flow freely from the highest levels of government, it is more important than ever for municipalities to stand strong with our LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized residents.”

Hate crimes are notoriously underreported, and the data is not always reported to and coordinated with the FBI. As a consequence, many municipalities show no incidents at all.

Reports include both “hate crimes” and “bias incidents.” A hate crime is defined as a criminal offense (vandalism, threats, assault and murder) motivated by prejudice or bias and directed at people because of their real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability. A bias incident is defined as an act that is motivated by prejudice but is not a crime ( being called a derogatory name or seeing someone holding a sign with a racist message).

As LGBTQ advocacy groups like HRC and the National Center for Transgender Equality report, many LGBTQ people fear reporting such crimes to law enforcement due to myriad concerns, which include fear of reprisal and being outed in local news media.

Cox spoke to those concerns, explaining that “the City of Philadelphia wants to remind our LGBTQ+ family that there are people and institutions working to protect them each and every day. Anyone who is the victim of a hate crime or witnesses one taking place is encouraged to call 911 immediately and later contact the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR), which investigates acts of hate and violence.”

Cox added, “The Office of LGBT Affairs is available to serve as a mediator for anyone who is uncomfortable interacting directly with law enforcement.”

This is an especially important option for trans and gender-nonconforming people who are disproportionately targeted by police and may not feel law enforcement is open to helping them with an incident in which they have been targeted for their gender identity or perceived gender identity.

Reporting these crimes — particularly those involving violence — is essential to both highlighting the number of incidents and ending the stigma attached to reporting.

According to PCHR’s statistics, reporting of such crimes is low in Philadelphia compared with other major cities. Yet even with that caveat, the number of reports has doubled in just one year. In the calendar year 2017, PCHR received eight reports of hate or bias incidents against the LGBTQ+ community. In the calendar year 2018, they recorded 17 incidents against the LGBTQ+ community. In 2019 (through September 30, 2019), 16 hate crimes or bias incidents against members of the LGBT community have been reported to the PCHR.

If you have been victimized because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, you can contact:

Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR): 215-686-4670

PCHR anonymous hotline: 215-686-2856

Office of LGBT Affairs: 215-686-0330

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