As Georgia state House, State Senate and Governor’s Office wrestle with what to do with Georgia’s proposed hate crimes law, the most important question is and should be “would it be effective?” In this study, we look at the role hate crimes laws play in possibly reducing all crimes, not just hate crimes.
Last year, my students and I analyzed the relationship between hate crimes laws and hate crimes groups. Would passing a law reduce the number of hate crimes groups? We found that to be the case. This is not just a list of extreme conservative organizations. Groups classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center include the Nation of Islam.
This year, we looked at the relationship between hate crimes and all forms of crime. Specifically, we looked at whether states had a hate crimes law or not and the averages of several crime measures, provided by the Uniform Crime Reporting data from the FBI for the year 2014, the most recent year in the data tool (www.ucrdatatool.gov).
To summarize, we discovered that states which have passed hate crimes laws had lower crime rates in four of these five factors, trailing only slightly in the rates of armed robberies. States without hate crimes laws, including Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas, had higher violent crime rates, murder rates, aggravated assault rates and property crime rates, on average.
“We found that the five states without hate crime laws had a higher rate of violent crime than the other 45 states with hate crime laws,” wrote Seth Golden and Robert Allen. “In our research we discovered that the states without hate crime laws had a higher murder rate than the states that have enacted hate crime laws.”
Other crimes were examined, too. “We looked at aggravated assault rates in the United States,” wrote Pete Alford and Stephen Wagner. “We found that states without a hate crime law have a higher average of aggravated assault rates than those states that do have a hate crime law.”
Not all cases resulted in a superior showing for states with a hate crimes law. Agrlin Braxton discovered that that states without a hate crimes law have slightly fewer armed robberies, on average. But it was a different story for all property crimes. We discovered that states with a hate crime law had on average, 2,509 property crimes per 100,000 residents. That numbers shot up to 2,939 property crimes per 100,000 residents for states without a hate crimes law, such as Georgia, South Carolina and three other states.
When state Rep. Chuck Efstration (R-Dacula), a former prosecutor, introduced the hate crimes bill HB-426, he claimed that district attorneys were in favor of the legislation. Groups ranging from International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training and the UCR programs support hate crimes laws. Now we know why. They are largely associated with lower crime rates for a number of crimes.
HB-426 was co-sponsored by Republicans and Democrats, whites and blacks, men and women. That’s because all can benefit from Georgia becoming a safer state, as the evidence shows.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Robert Allen, Seth Golden, Pete Alford, Stephen Wagner, and Agrlin Braxton are LaGrange College undergraduates.