HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - In 2020, there was a spike in the number of hate crimes report to the FBI, but the agency believes that many are not being reported to authorities.
The FBI reported that they have seen a 6.1% increase in hate crimes around the country in 2020.
A News 3 investigation looked at what is happening with hate crimes in Hampton Roads.
The FBI said most of the reported hate crimes in our region involve race and sexual orientation.
The crimes occurred in communities large and small, including the Eastern Shore, and our colleges and universities. They were spread out throughout the region, according to the FBI.
“We believe that there’s crime going on out there that’s being underreported,” said Brian Dugan, Norfolk FBI Special Agent in Charge.
Tarena Williams is an African American trans woman living in Hampton Roads.
Several years ago, she survived a violent shooting, which she believes was a result of her being trans.
She said she was communicating with a man online; he showed up where she was living, then started to get violent when she refused sexual favors.
Williams said the two started to tussle and then he pulled out a gun, demanding her purse, and she refused. As she got him out the door, she said he shot her, and the bullet was just inches from her heart.
The window shattered, sending glass everywhere.
“I had glass stuck on my face on my body from my head to my feet,” said Williams.
She said thought she was going to die that night and said it was difficult to find someone to help her.
Williams currently has permanent damage to her hand, adding she can’t tie her shoes or zip up her pants.
Police arrested Curtis Bell Jr. for the attack several days later. He is currently serving his sentence but was not charged with a hate crime.
Williams believes she was targeted due to being a trans woman.
The FBI said in general, hate crimes are hard to prosecute.
“A hate crime can be any traditional crime that’s done out of bias,” said Dugan.
He said it can be hard to prove the motive.
A spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans has caused Qui Hailstork to be more cautious. She works as an associate professor of history at Old Dominion University and the director of the Institute of Asian Studies.
“I have never been so frightened until recently. I really started to feel frightened about my personal safety. My husband even feels uncomfortable when I go out by myself,” said Hailstork.
Related: Research: 68% of hate crime victims experience PTSD symptoms
Locally, the FBI say they want to reach those in the LGBTQ community, the African American community, the Asian American community, the Jewish community and any other minority group that has been the victim of a crime.
“I think there’s a lot of polarization within the United States and there’s a lot of angst against different communities,” said Dugan.
As much of the country is divided by political views, Dugan said the attack on the capitol on January 6 was an ugly hate crime on full display. He said it is rare that hate crimes are so outwardly shown and noted that they are usually more undercover or hidden.
News 3 investigated and requested statistics for Hampton Roads from the FBI.
According to the FBI, “In Hampton Roads, FBI statistics for 2018-2020 reported there were 55 incidents identified as being motivated by a bias against a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. The crimes occurred across the region, in communities large and small, including the Eastern Shore and our colleges and universities. There was no one city or area that dominated the statistics, the incidents spanned all areas of the region. Of the 55 incidents: 64% were identified to be motivated by race; 35% by sexual orientation; and less than 1% (.02%) by religion or disability. We are providing the stats with a few words of caution. It's important to know that this data reflects crimes that were determined to be motivated by certain biases through investigation, and they were not necessarily prosecuted as hate crimes.”
According to their website, "Hate crimes are motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and were committed against people, property, or society. Because motivation is subjective, it is sometimes difficult to know with certainty whether a crime resulted from the offender’s bias. The presence of bias alone does not necessarily mean that a crime can be considered a hate crime. Only when a law enforcement investigation reveals sufficient evidence to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by their bias, should an agency report an incident as a hate crime."
The FBI started a nationwide campaign to encourage people to report hate crimes. The public will see videos at gas stations around the region examining the problem and asking them to come forward.
They will also see billboards and hear radio ads, all an effort to encourage people to report if they’ve been a victim of a hate crime.
“Hate crime statistics are rising, but we believe there’s still people fearful of law enforcement; fearful of reporting to law enforcement; fearful of what will happen. Immigrant communities that are fearful of immigration consequences if they report a crime,” said Dugan.
Hailstork appreciates that law enforcement is doing more to help the Asian American community.
“They need to be encouraged.They need to feel that they are part of this American community. They are not foreigners; they are not aliens, but they are Americans in this big family,” said Hailstork.
Williams wants more inclusion and love.
"That’s what I want from the community - for you to love us like we love y’all because we are someone’s child or someone's sister or someone’s niece. It’s all about helping and respecting,” said Williams.
“When hate crime divides us more, it makes our community more divisive, and that makes life difficult for everybody,” said Dugan.
According to the FBI, "The FBI is the lead investigative agency for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. The Bureau works closely with its local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners in many of these cases, even when federal charges are not pursued. The FBI also works to detect and prevent incidents through law enforcement training, public outreach, and partnerships with community groups. The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” The FBI works to protect all victims of crimes, regardless of their country of national origin or immigration status. The FBI encourages victims and witnesses of any hate-related incident to report it to law enforcement. After a report is submitted, the FBI will work with its law enforcement partners and use its resources and expertise to determine if an incident meets the criminal standard."
If you believe you are victim or a witness of a hate crime, we encourage you to report it to the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or submitting a tip at tips.fbi.gov. You may remain anonymous.