Classifying hateful criminal acts

Just because an incident isn’t classified as a hate crime doesn’t make it right.

According to the annual crime summary produced by the University Police Department, zero hate crimes occurred on campus last year. However, incidents have occurred that are hate related and this might cause some confusion. It is important to be aware of how these bias-related incidents are classified as hate crimes and violent crimes.

Recent occurrences such as the racial and ethnic slurs found in a restroom at Centennial Hall are obviously intended to intimidate and spread hate. However, the only crime here according to the police department is damage to property. The incident is not considered a violent crime because it isn’t aimed toward a specific person as a threat and it doesn’t directly hurt any individual physically. Violent crimes in general include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault. According to the police department, hate crimes do not include prejudices motivated speech, or vandalism. They are only considered such when involving violence.

Not all incidents that are biased are crimes, even if they are offensive. Therefore, these incidents aren’t hate crimes. They are simply hateful acts. Incidents such as these are still monitored by law enforcement officials in order to keep track of the social climate of the University. Law enforcement is responsible for deciding whether a crime is hateful, based on what happened, and by information regarding the offenders intent when committing the crime. If the intent of an incident was to threaten an individual or a specific group of people, and it involves violence, it is considered a hate crime. The police department only considers crimes that involve violence with obvious prejudice to be hate crimes. Offensive graffiti, mailings, posters and demonstrations are not considered hate crimes by the police department.

Just because a hateful act isn’t classified as a hate crime doesn’t make it right. Students need to be aware of these incidents and the harmful affect that they have on the University community.