Hate crimes are rising in Texas and Dallas saw more than any other city in the state in 2018, according to recently-released figures.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations’ statistics for 2018 showed the number of hate crimes committed in Texas rose by nearly 240% from 2017 to 2018.
The figures in the Uniform Crime Prevention Program are compiled from statistics voluntarily given to the FBI by local and state-wide agencies. Although they appear to point to a spike in hate crimes in the Lone Star State, they may also reflect a greater awareness of these offenses with police reporting more of them than in previous years.
Dallas recorded 31 hate crimes in 2018. The figure was more than double the 2016 figure when the city reported 15 hate crimes. Austin reported 19. The FBI received reports of 26 hate crimes in Fort Worth, and Houston reported 25.
Some smaller cities reported hate crimes. However, Freeport with 14 hate crime offenses and Plainview with 25 in 2018 blamed glitches with a new reporting system on false statistics.
The rise in reported hate crimes in Texas is in line with a national hate crime spike.
In Texas, racially-motivated crimes saw the biggest rises, while incidents concerning sexual orientation, religion, and disability also increased. Racist cases rose from 117 in 2017 to 314 in 2018.
Texas has had a state hate crimes statute since 2001 when it enacted the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act.
The legislation was named after a crime that shocked the nation. Byrd, a 49-year-old African American was dragged to his death behind a pickup truck. His killers left what remained of his body in front of an African-American church and cemetery
Earlier in 2019, John William King, an avowed racist, was put to death by lethal injection in Texas. The execution was carried out 21 years after King and two other white men killed Byrd in 1998.
Many hate crime offenses are also brought in the federal courts. In October 2018, the U.S. Justice Department announced Marq Perez, 26, had been sentenced to 24 years in prison for burning down the Victoria Islamic Center in January 2017. A jury found his hatred of Muslims caused Perez to attack the mosque.
Hate crimes are viewed very seriously in Texas and carry heavy sentences. However, the Hate Crimes Act is used sparingly and prosecutors often reach plea deals because it can be hard to prove a racist, sexist or other discriminatory motives.
If you or a family one has been accused of a hate crime in Dallas or elsewhere in Texas, please contact the Broden & Mickelsen, LLP in Dallas. As criminal defense attorneys, they are prepared to fight for your freedom and will outline your legal options.