Story at a glance
- Hate crimes skyrocketed in Maine in 2020 even as overall violent and property crime fell for the ninth year in a row.
- Most hate crimes were motivated by race and sexual orientation, according to data from Maine’s Department of Public Safety.
- The report uses data collected using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, which only represents reported crimes.
Hate crimes motivated by race, gender, and sexuality in Maine last year spiked compared to 2019 figures, according to new figures released by state law enforcement, even as statewide crime overall plummeted for the ninth consecutive year.
Hate crimes in 2020 rose more than 400 percent over 2019, according to a recent report released by Maine’s Department of Public Safety. State police last year reported 83 offenses, representing a 437 percent leap from the previous year’s 19 offenses.
Meanwhile, total violent crimes in the state were down nearly 5 percent year-over-year, and property crimes fell roughly 6 percent from the previous year.
Most hate crimes in 2020 were motivated by race or ethnicity, the department found, accounting for just under 48 percent of incidents. That was followed by sexual orientation, which was the primary motivating factor in 43 percent of hate crimes, and religion, which was the reported bias just over 8 percent of hate crimes. Victims were targeted for their gender identity in roughly 1 percent of hate crimes.
Individuals were reported to be the main hate crime target, according to the report, making up more than 92 percent of victims. Targeted businesses, governments, and religious organizations accounted for the remaining 8 percent.
Gia Drew, a program director at the political advocacy organization EqualityMaine, told the local CBS-affiliate WGME-TV this week that the increase in hate crimes, particularly among the state’s LGBTQ+ community, is especially concerning because it was previously believed that there had been progress on that front.
She said that increase is part of a national trend where marginalized groups of all backgrounds are under attack.
“There are some very loud, vocal anti-LGBTQ people and they've been emboldened over the last few years to say those things, not just privately, but now more publicly,” she said. "We think it's really important for our allies to stand up and speak up in their local communities when they hear something that they know is not right.”
The department’s report uses data collected using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, or UCR, a cooperative effort of more than 16,000 city, county, and state law enforcement agencies.
Criminologists have warned that these statistics should be taken with a grain of salt, as they only represent reported crimes, meaning there can be major fluctuations in year-over-year data depending on any changes in policing practices or other factors. Using only reported crimes may also underestimate total crimes.
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