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Hate Crime Information

Hate crimes—including violence or the threat of violence—are motivated by the hatred of a person or group of people based upon race, religion, or sexual orientation of the victim or victims. Crimes including robbery, assault, or vandalism may be considered hate crimes if they are motivated entirely or partially by prejudice. 

The Pennsylvania State Police Heritage Affairs Section

All law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth can investigate hate crimes. The Pennsylvania State Police Heritage Affairs Section (HAS) is a unit dedicated to assisting our law enforcement partners in preventing, monitoring, responding to, and investigating occurrences of hate crimes in Pennsylvania.

Hate crimes have both a physical impact and a psychological impact on the victim(s). They can also lead to distress and instability in the communities where they occur. HAS members regularly meet with lawmakers, community groups, and other stakeholders to address concerns before, and even after, a hate crime occurs.

To contact the Heritage Affairs Section, email RA-pspheritageaffair@pa.gov.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a hate crime?
A. In Pennsylvania, a hate crime is an offense that causes physical harm to the victim, or an offense that threatens to commit harm to a victim or group, that is motivated by race, religion, ethnic/national origin, gender, age, disability or sexual orientation of the victim(s).

Q. What is the difference between hate crime and hate speech?
A. Hate speech is written or verbal communication that may be motivated by hate but is legally protected by the First Amendment. Examples include name calling, insults, and the distribution of offensive literature in public places.

Q. How prevalent is hate crime in Pennsylvania?
A. Hate crimes are believed to be grossly unreported in Pennsylvania and nationwide. Investigators base their decision on the presence or absence of certain indicators and the details of the investigation. Other factors that contribute to this situation include the reluctance of victims to report the offense to law enforcement and the reluctance of law enforcement to appropriately classify the offense as a hate crime. The latter is usually based on concern that a community will be stigmatized as a "haven of hatred."

Q. What should I do if I believe I have been the victim of a hate crime?
A. If you believe you are, or might be, the victim of a hate crime, report it to local law enforcement immediately. A prompt investigation is crucial and may prevent the suspect(s) from committing similar offenses. 

Resources

Law enforcement agencies submit data, including hate crime information, through the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System. This information is available to the public at www.paucrs.pa.gov.

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination. In general, Pennsylvania law prohibits discrimination based on race; color; religious creed; ancestry; age (40 and over); sex; national origin; familial status (only in housing); handicap or disability; and the use, handling, or training of support or guide animals for disability. Learn more at www.phrc.pa.gov.

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General brings actions before the PHRC, as well as in state and federal courts, to challenge discrimination when a case presents an important legal issue of statewide significance. Learn more at www.attorneygeneral.gov.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. Learn more at www.eoc.gov.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Hate Crimes website was developed to create resources for law enforcement, media, researchers, victims, advocacy groups, and other related organizations and individuals. Learn more at www.justice.gov/hatecrimes.