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What is a hate crime? Recognize the signs and report

What is a hate crime?

On Christmas Eve 2022, a young couple from the Asian community had an unpleasant encounter while recording a viral TikTok video at an In-N-Out restaurant in San Ramon, California.

In the video, both young men are enjoying their meal when a man approaches them with vociferous comments, however, these were homophobic and racist in nature.

The incident culminated in the arrest of a man by the name of Jordan Douglas Krah, 40, a resident of Denver, Colorado, for violating California hate crime laws. 

The incident that did not happen to adults, despite the fact that the man waited for these young people outside the establishment for at least 15 minutes. But when does an act like that become a hate crime or incident? How to recognize the signs to report it as such?

How to recognize a hate crime.

Hate and Crime

Let's start with a bit of terminology, which can often be confusing.

According to the US Department of Justice, in the simplest terms, a hate crime must include both the element of "hate" and a "crime."

The term "hate" can be confusing. When used in the context of hate crime law, the word as such does not mean rage, anger, or general displeasure. In this context, "hate" means a bias against persons or groups with specific characteristics defined by the Law.

At the federal level, hate crime laws include crimes committed on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability, actual or perceived, from the victim.

The “crime” element in a “hate crime” is usually one of a violent nature such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threats to be committed. It can also include conspiring to commit such acts or soliciting another person to commit such acts, even if the crime is never committed.

Hate Crime: At the federal level, is a crime committed on the basis of race, skin color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Hate Incident or Bias: Acts of bias that are not crimes and do not involve violence, threats, or property damage.

And it is that, explains the agency, under the First Amendment to the US Constitution, people cannot be prosecuted or singled out simply for their beliefs. People may be offended or upset by beliefs that are untrue or based on false biases, but it is not a crime to express such offensive beliefs or join others who share the same beliefs. 

However, the First Amendment does not protect people who commit a crime simply because the conduct is based on philosophical beliefs.

Hate crimes have a broader effect than other types of crime. Victims of hate crimes include not only the immediate target of the crime but others who are like them. Hate crimes affect families, communities, and sometimes the entire country.

Why should a hate crime be reported?

The gap in the reporting of hate crimes is important, since various organizations consider that the real numbers of these acts triple those registered or those that are reported to the authorities.

That is why it is essential to report hate crimes not only to show your support and get help for the victims but also to send a clear message that the community will not tolerate these types of acts.

Reporting hate crimes allows communities and law enforcement to understand the scope of the problem within the community and dedicate resources to preventing and addressing bias and hate-based attacks.

According to California state authorities, if you are the victim of a hate crime, you should do the following:

  • Contact local law enforcement immediately.
  • Seek medical attention (if you need it).
  • Write down the exact words that were said.
  • Write down any other information.
  • Save all evidence (eg, graffiti, eggshells, writing on the victim's vehicle, etc.). If it's safe, wait until the police arrive and take photos.
  • Get the names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails of other victims and witnesses.
  • Try to get a description of the offender or the vehicle from any witnesses who were present.
  • Contact community organizations in your area that respond to hate crimes.

What you and your community can do:

  • Denounce hate and intolerance.
  • Attend community rallies to support victims.
  • Offer support and help to victims.
  • Ask public officials to report hate crimes.
  • Establish a human relations commission or hate crime network that includes law enforcement, local government, schools, faith-based organizations, and community organizations, and ask them to respond to hate crimes immediately when they occur. produce and promote prevention and awareness.

Hate incidents must also be reported. Some examples of hate incidents are as follows:

  • Offensive nicknames.
  • Abuse.
  • Display of hateful materials on one's own property.
  • Posting hate material that does not cause property damage.
  • Distribution of materials with hate messages in public places.

Where to find help:

It is important to call 911 or go to a local hospital if immediate attention is needed. To file a complaint, you can contact your local security forces.

The California Attorney General's Victim Services Unit provides crime victims and their families with support and information throughout the criminal process. For more information, call (877) 433-9069 or visit www.oag.ca.gov/hatecrimes

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing "DFEH" is the state agency in charge of enforcing California's civil rights laws and protecting the population not only from illegal discrimination in the employment, housing and public accommodation, but also hate violence and human trafficking. 

The DFEH accepts complaints from victims of hate violence or threats of violence based on the victim's actual or perceived protected social group. For information on how to file a complaint you can visit the site www.dfeh.ca.gov.

The Local Prosecutor's Office Victim Witness Assistance Center works directly with the California Victim Compensation Board ?CalVCB? to help victims in every county. For information on a local office and resources visit the website www.victims.ca.gov/victims/localhelp.aspx

Remember that the California Victims' Rights Act, known as Marsy's Law, gives the victim(s) legal rights such as:

  • Get money for your losses. Use the money to cover property losses, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses.
  • Say how the crime affected you. Tell the court how the crime has affected your life before the defendant is sentenced.
  • Obtain information about the criminal case. Ask the prosecutor for some information about the case.
  • Get court orders. The court can issue a protective order to keep the defendant away from you or an order to pay attorney fees if you hired one to help you with your case. In addition, the court can order the defendant to pay you $25,000 or more for violating your civil rights. ?Talk to a lawyer about your rights under the Ralph Law and the Bane Law.?
  • California law prohibits law enforcement from asking people, including reporters or victims of possible crimes, about their immigration status, unless the information is needed to certify the victim for a U visa? crime victim? or for a T visa ?a visa for a victim of human trafficking?.

This publication was supported in whole or part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.

You may be interested in: They describe as "inhumane" and "tragic" policies against immigration to the US.

Pamela Cruz
Pamela Cruz
Editor-in-Chief of Peninsula 360 Press. A communicologist by profession, but a journalist and writer by conviction, with more than 10 years of media experience. Specialized in medical and scientific journalism at Harvard and winner of the International Visitors Leadership Program scholarship from the U.S. government.


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