Hate crimes motivated by race, gender and sexuality on the rise in Maine even as overall crime declines

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Hate crimes motivated by race, sex and sexuality in Maine increased last year from 2019 figures, according to new figures released by state law enforcement, even as the crime across the state fell for the ninth consecutive year.

Hate crimes in 2020 increased by more than 400% compared to 2019 according to a recent report published by the Maine Department of Public Safety. Last year, state police reported 83 offenses, a 437% jump from 19 offenses the previous year.

Meanwhile, total violent crime in the state fell almost 5% year-on-year, and property crime fell about 6% from the previous year.

Most hate crimes in 2020 were motivated by race or ethnicity, the department found, accounting for just under 48% of incidents. Next came sexual orientation, which was the primary motivator in 43% of hate crimes, and religion, which was the bias reported in just over 8% of hate crimes. Victims were targeted because of their gender identity in about 1% of hate crimes.


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According to the report, individuals are the main target of hate crimes, representing more than 92% of victims. Targeted businesses, governments and religious organizations made up the remaining 8 percent.

Gia Drew, program director at political advocacy organization EqualityMaine, told local CBS affiliate WGME-TV this week that the increase in hate crimes, particularly within the state’s LGBTQ + community, is of particular concern as it was previously believed that there has been progress on this front.

She said the increase is part of a national trend where marginalized groups from all backgrounds are under attack.

“There are some very loud and loud anti-LGBTQ people and they have become emboldened in recent years to say these things, not just in private, but now more publicly,” she said. “We think it’s really important that our allies stand up and speak out in their local communities when they hear something they know is wrong.”

Department report uses data collected with help from FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, 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, which means that there can be significant fluctuations in the data from year to year depending on any changes in policing practices or other factors. Using only reported crimes may also underestimate the total number of crimes.


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