As hate crimes rise, a bill to combat the problem languishes in Congress

The bill could help improve how much we know about the state of hate crimes in America.

The "NO HATE Act" aims to increase reporting and transparency around hate crime acts, like those committed by white supremacist neo-Confederates. CREDIT: WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY
The "NO HATE Act" aims to increase reporting and transparency around hate crime acts, like those committed by white supremacist neo-Confederates. CREDIT: WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY

New statistics released this week by the FBI show a 17 percent increase in documented hate crimes in 2017, the third consecutive year in which hate crimes have risen across the United States.

Not only did hate crimes altogether rise last year, but the FBI pointed to notable increases in anti-Hispanic and anti-Semitic crimes. Anti-black crimes also substantially outpaced all other race-based hate crimes.

One bill, though, attempts to not only stem the rising tide of hate crimes across the U.S., but to also help Americans get a better handle on where and how these hate crimes take place, and who exactly is targeted.

The “National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act,” dubbed the “NO HATE Act,” was introduced early last year by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). However, it has languished in Congress over the past 18 months — perhaps due to the fact that the measure has zero Republican co-sponsors. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a similar bill in the Senate in 2017.


Following the release of the new FBI statistics, Beyer issued a call to revisit the bill, and to improve how the U.S. gathers information about hate crimes across the country.

“For the third year in a row, hate crimes across the country have risen, this year by 17 percent… [It] is time for Congress to take action,” Beyer said Wednesday in a statement. “With each passing year, the problem of hate in the United States grows, and it requires Congress to take up and pass the NO HATE Act.”

As Beyer’s office pointed out, a substantial number of law enforcement agencies have failed to file any hate crimes reports over the past decade. Some states even had a majority of their agencies fail to file a single report. While there has been an increase in agencies reporting over the past year — the FBI said an additional 1,000 agencies contributed information this year — the “NO HATE Act” would streamline reporting.

One sub-section of the bill outlines how it would improve reporting, expanding and standardizing the types of information law enforcement agencies should gather relating to potential hate crimes, and help police identify hate crimes when they actually take place.

Another sub-section is devoted to increasing the use of hate crime hotlines, providing a grant for states to manage their own related hotlines. One similar hotline launched in Maryland in 2016, but the “NO HATE Act” would push for financing to start similar hotlines in all 50 states.


And as a final thrust to protect victims of hate crimes, the bill would “establish a federal private right of action” for hate crimes, effectively allowing victims to sue perpetrators in civil court.

The bill has already garnered notable support, including from the NAACP. “For many police departments, the transition to [the standardized hate crime reporting mechanisms] will require additional funding and training. Congress can provide this assistance through legislation, like the NO HATE Act, that incentivizes hate crime reporting,” wrote Maya Berry, the executive director of the Arab American Institute.

With nearly 100 co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate, the momentum for improving hate crime reporting and transparency may finally be building, alongside the ever-increasing need for more information about the state of hate crimes in America.

And while the bill doesn’t mention Trump explicitly, it comes on the heels of the president’s increasingly toxic rhetoric and the increasing number of far-right extremists who support him, and who then proceed to murder or plot domestic bombings. Just weeks after a spate of hate crimes ranging from a grocery store shooting to a massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue, there’s little sign the trend will end anytime soon.