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FSU researcher finds that hate crimes committed by groups hurt more



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IMAGE: Assistant Professor, Faculty of Criminology, FSU and Criminal Justice
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Credit: FSU Photo / Bill Lax

Hate crimes committed by groups are particularly prone to result in injuries such as broken bones and missing teeth, according to a new study from Florida State University.

Brendan Lantz, an assistant professor at the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice at FSU, found that co-offending or committing a crime with others was significantly related to increased chances of serious injury regardless of the motivation behind the crime.

The results, published in the press last month in the journal Criminal Justice and Behavior, also indicated, however, that the likelihood of serious injury to the victim was greater in bias-motivated incidents and committed by a group.

"Many hate crimes involve groups of people, especially youth groups," Lantz said. "Research suggests that being in the presence of other people can change someone's behavior. Because they feel more anonymous in a group environment, they behave in a more extreme way."

Lantz analyzed data from the National Incident Reporting System, an FBI database that provides incident-level data on violent crime, bias motivation, the number of offenders involved, and injuries to victims.

The researchers examined various motivations for prejudice, such as race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability. They found that after accounting for the presence of hate crimes, crimes, race, ethnicity, religion and motivated disability were not significantly more likely than other crimes involve serious injury to the victim. However, sexual orientation was an outlier. This bias motivation was significantly associated with the likelihood of serious injury to the victim, regardless of the number of offenders involved in the offense.

In fact, incidents of sexual orientation prejudice were approximately 53% more likely than non-biased incidents to involve serious injury to victims.

Lantz said future research could explore why sexual orientation hates crimes that are more likely to be more violent than other crimes, motivated by prejudice or others. Meanwhile, researchers suggest that there are some important policy implications to consider.

"A little more than half of the states in the United States have sexual orientation as a protected class in hate crime laws," said Lantz. "Countering the joint offense explains part of the violence for other hate crimes, but not for crimes motivated by sexual orientation." This means that lack of oversight or a law in many states is especially problematic. "

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Joonggon Kim, a former FSU doctoral student and current assistant professor at Keimyung University, served as co-author of the study.

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