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Do Increases in Hate Crime Suggest That We Have Become Less Civilized and More Violent?


When prejudices dominate society, it often leads to hate crimes that are also known as bias-motivated crimes. The offenders target their victims based on their belongingness to a particular group. Among the key biases of hate crimes, there are nationality, race, gender, age, religion, disability, and sexual orientation (D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, 2017). This paper aims to discuss the history of the hate crime concept, as well as the connections between hate crimes, public awareness, and sensitisation to violence.

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Increases in Hate Crime and Public Awareness

As an extreme expression of prejudice, hate crimes result from social, economic, and political changes. In cases when political or public discourses tend to devalue the members of certain groups, making them feel anger, frustration, fear, and hate (American Psychological Association, 2017). According to the definition by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hate crime should be understood as an offense against people or property that is motivated by one or several biases (Müller & Schwarz, 2018). The concept of hate crime appeared in the 1980s in the US, when the first hate-crime laws were enacted (Naidoo, 2016). However, it appeared much earlier and was practiced by people across the history, beginning with the persecution of Christians by Romans and ending with the Nazi slaughter of Jews as major examples. The colonisation and further violence towards the Indigenous peoples of America as well as the lynching of African-Americans can be noted (Smangs, 2017). Along with these large examples, bias-motivated crimes involve harassment, arson, verbal abuse, and many other types of crimes committed because of biases.

Public awareness and reporting practices are regarded as the issues that are related to the rates of hate crimes. Davis and O’Neill (2020) mention that of 250,000 such crimes, only one out of third is reported, which causes threats to the entire society. When hate crime numbers increase, reporting tends to decline, which is due to the difficulties in defining and categorisation of crimes. For example, many youth crimes are committed for an excitement, and their related bias is not strong (Ellis, 2019). Another example is when an employee murders his or her supervisor for firing, but workplace hatred is not included in the hate crime definitions. One more reason for poor reporting refers to the desire to hide such crimes from public attention with the purpose of avoiding fear and tensions in society (Walters, Brown, and Wiedlitzka, 2016). Nevertheless, underreporting cannot decrease fear, and the ignorance of authorities can only reinforce it.

In the UK, third-party reporting centres (TPRCs) are considered to be the mechanisms for promoting a greater public awareness. These centres (student groups, faith communities, and day care organizations) are expected to provide the opportunity of reporting about hate crimes for minority groups, such as lesbians, transgender, Asians, African-Americans, and so on. The mistrust to the police is one of the leading factors that prevent the victims from reporting, and TPRCs are created to offer an alternative tool to notify about misconduct (Wong et al., 2020). In other words, a lack of trust to the law enforcement agencies causes fear in the victims and reduces reporting practices. Wong et al. (2020) also point to the problem of limited resources that do not allow the mentioned centres to ensure the opportunity of public awareness. Namely, budgetary challenges and changes in urban and rural areas require more effort and time to adjust to the altering needs of communities.

While the interaction and cooperation with the police are noted as effective by some studies that were mentioned above, there is a problem of over-patrolling and related ethnic disparities. Namely, the recent study revealed that of 36,000 searches that were made by 1,000 officers in the UK, the majority of stops and checks included the representatives of ethnic minorities, such as African-Americans and Asians (Vomfell and Stewart, 2021). It means that police officers’ biases against race motivated their prejudices and to stop and search mainly ethnic minorities. Accordingly, it is one more problem in the debate about hate crime perception, impact, and combat. Social media also contributes to the discriminatory sentiments; for example, Facebook users’ comments about anti-refugee initiatives can be noted to serve as the mechanism of proposing hate crimes (Müller and Schwarz, 2018). In other words, the spread of extremist attitudes fans the flames of hatred in society.

Speaking about the impact of hate crimes on civilizing / decivilizing process, it should be stressed that the victims of such crimes report higher levels of stress and anxiety. As stated by Benier (2017), neighbourhood research shows that not only direct victims but also those who become crime witnesses are likely to experience a lack of trust to people. It leads to social isolation, emotional reactions, and disassociation within groups. In particular, if the victims of bias-motivated crimes do not feel support from their groups, they are likely to distance themselves from them, which is defined as voluntary segregation. Accordingly, such responses lead to the fact that society members avoid active participation in social, economic, political, and public life (Benier, 2017). Such behaviours indicate undermining citizenship and freedom as the movements of the process of decivilization.

In many cases, the offenders that commit hate crimes strive to eliminate diversity in its various expressions, be it race or religion. It contradicts the theory of Durkheim, who claimed that diversity is what integrates society compared to homogeneity (Wong et al., 2020). However, a lack of harmony and cohesion among diverse minority groups seems to demonstrate that the increase in hate crime is associated with the failure to promote civilizing processes. In addition to the perceived attitudes to diversity, feelings of safety and social cohesion are the key signs of a civilized society. As reported by Braun (2019), hate crimes limit the interaction between the members of communities, which means that they lack social inclusion and equality. Consequently, the lived experience of all people living in a certain neighbourhood becomes affected, and it makes an adverse impact on the functioning of society as an integral whole.

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Hate Crime and Sensitisation to Violence

Considering hate as a crime increases sensitization to violence since it clearly defines inappropriate behaviours and identifies expected responses. In 2017, 7,175 hate crimes were committed in the US, according to the FBI report; and it is 17% more than in 2016 (American Psychological Association, 2017). The bureau notes that as the number of such crimes amplified, the number of departments and organizations reporting such violations also increased. According to the above statistics, the majority of crimes (59.6%) are committed on the basis of racial / ethnic hatred, and the second place (20.6%) is taken by crimes motivated by religious intolerance. Mrug, Madan, and Windle (2016) state that the exposure to violence in adolescence leads to desensitization of emotions and contributes to crimes in adulthood. When a person becomes a victim or observes hate crimes several times, it causes violence habituation, when misconduct is perceived as something that cannot evoke emotional distress (Hoffman, 2020). Reduced sympathy and empathy are associated with desensitization to hate crimes.

The increasing crime rates stimulate the police and other responsible agencies to introduce the measures to promote higher public awareness. For example, joint patrolling with the police involves the participation of citizens in police operations that pose little risks. Through such programs, citizens are selected and trained on basic police skills. They participate in patrolling disadvantaged and potentially-risky areas as observers and report their opinions to the police leadership (Ellis, 2019). The level of their awareness of offenses largely depends on personal contacts with the administration of enterprises, housing authorities, educational institutions, and so on. Various categories of offenders, the identification of which has specific characteristics, fall into the sphere of the preventive influence. It is necessary to take into account the nature of socio-economic and other processes, the movement of migration flows, the time at which the peak of vacations falls, climatic conditions, et cetera (Piza, 2018). These public awareness promotion measures are anticipated to reduce hatred-based crimes, but their implementation usually occurs only after violent attacks or a significant increase of social tensions.


To conclude, hate crimes are considered one of the most dangerous crimes since hatred can destroy civil society, according to the reviewed literature. As the outcome of social, ethnic, and other prejudices, bias-motivated crimes are committed against diversity, which makes them dangerous to social values and human integration. There is a link between public awareness and hate crime, which is expressed in a range of factors that impede reporting. Fear, confusion, and negative experience result in mistrust to the police and in communities. The increase in crime rates leads to a more intensive implementation of public awareness promotion programs. Also, it is found that hate crime is associated with the process of decivilization that is characterised by a lack of cohesion and harmony among people. Thus, it is important to promote perceiving hate as a crime to avoid the increase in this type of inappropriate behaviours. When the definitions, expected response ways, and support resources are clear, it is possible to expect that hate crime can be effectively combated.

Reference List

American Psychological Association. (2017) The psychology of hate crimes.

Benier, K. (2017) ‘The harms of hate: comparing the neighbouring practices and interactions of hate crime victims, non-hate crime victims and non-victims’, International Review of Victimology, 23(2), pp. 179-201.

Braun, A. (2019) ‘Interpersonal violence as an intrinsic part of the civilizing process’, Archives Européennes de Sociologie, 60(2), pp. 283-312.

D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. (2017) Bias-related crimes (hate crimes) data.

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Davis, R. L. and O’Neill, P. (2020) The hate crimes reporting gap: low numbers keep tensions high.

Ellis, A. (2019) ‘A de-civilizing reversal or system normal? Rising lethal violence in post-recession austerity United Kingdom’, The British Journal of Criminology, 59(4), pp. 862-878.

Hoffman, A. J. (2020) ‘Community service activities reducing hate crimes and extremism: a “green intervention” approach’, Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, 48(3), pp. 207-209.

Mrug, S., Madan, A. and Windle, M. (2016) ‘Emotional desensitization to violence contributes to adolescents’ violent behaviour’, Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44(1), pp. 75-86.

Müller, K. and Schwarz, C. (2018) ‘Fanning the flames of hate: social media and hate crime’, Journal of the European Economic Association, pp. 1-37.

Naidoo, K. (2016) ‘The origins of hate-crime laws’, Fundamina, 22(1), pp. 53-66.

Piza, E. L. (2018) ‘The effect of various police enforcement actions on violent crime: evidence from a saturation foot-patrol intervention’, Criminal Justice Policy Review, 29(6-7), pp. 611-629.

Smangs, M. (2017) ‘The lynching of African Americans in the US South: a review of sociological and historical perspectives’, Sociology Compass, 11(8), pp. 1-13.

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Vomfell, L. and Stewart, N. (2021) ‘Officer bias, over-patrolling and ethnic disparities in stop and search’, Nature Human Behaviour, pp. 1-10.

Walters, M., Brown, R. and Wiedlitzka, S. (2016) ‘Causes and motivations of hate crime’, Equality and Human Rights Commission Research Report, 102, pp. 1-61.

Wong, K. et al. (2020) ‘Reality versus rhetoric: assessing the efficacy of third-party hate crime reporting centres’, International Review of Victimology, 26(1), pp.79-95.

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