North Dakota may have a reputation for being nice, but the state ranks second in the nation for reported hate crimes per capita, according to Forum analysis of 2015 FBI statistics released recently.
Thirty-six hate crimes were reported to North Dakota police departments in 2015, or 4.8 crimes per 100,000 residents. North Dakota has held the number two spot since 2012, except in 2013 when it ranked first with 7.1 hate crimes per 100,000 residents. Massachusetts ranked first in 2015 with 6.3 hate crimes per 100,000 people, and Minnesota ranked 19th with 2.1 hate crimes per 100,00 people, the same rate for the country overall.
According to the FBI, of the 36 hate crimes reported in North Dakota last year, 29 were based on race or ethnicity; three were based on religion, and four on sexual orientation. A spokesperson for the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition said the state’s changing demographics and the recent debates over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues are likely influencing the number of hate crimes reported.
What is a Hate Crime?
According to the FBI, a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” The federal government as well as several states, including Minnesota, have hate crime laws that carry tougher penalties for convictions, but North Dakota does not have such a law.
The FBI has investigated what are now known as hate crimes as far back as World War I, but the agency’s role increased following the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Prior to that, the federal government took the position that the protection of civil rights was a local function and not a federal one, but the murders of three civil rights workers near Philadelphia, Mississippi in June 1964 demanded a sustained federal effort to protect and foster the civil rights of African Americans.
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