The term "hate crime" was coined in the 1980s by journalists and policy advocates who were attempting to describe a series of incidents directed at Jews, Asians and African-Americans. The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines hate crime (also known as bias crime) as "a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin." Washington and Oregon were the first states to pass hate crime legislation in 1981; today, 49 states have hate crime statutes. States vary with regard to the groups protected under hate crime laws (e.g., religion, race or ethnicity, and sexual orientation), the range of crimes covered, and the penalty enhancements for offenders. Most states and large cities now have hate crime task forces coordinating across several levels of government and working with community organizations.
 Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Hate Crime Statistics, 2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, November 2007.
Date Modified: April 4, 2017