The Houston Police Department’s Hate Crime Program
Houston is a very diverse city with residents from across the globe and from all walks of life who call it home. Houstonians have a history of celebrating our diversity and do a good job of getting along with their neighbors, regardless of what they look like, where they are from, or what they believe. Despite the overwhelmingly tolerant attitude of our community, a few still harbor biases that sometimes manifest into criminal activity when they threaten or injure others or damage property. Whenever a crime occurs and hate is a motivating factor, we call that a Hate Crime.
The Houston Police Department (HPD) views all hate crimes as major, and possibly organized acts, which are given the highest investigative priority possible to ensure rapid apprehension of all persons involved. HPD’s Criminal Intelligence Division has the ultimate responsibility for reviewing and determining whether a crime meets the definition for federal or state record-keeping agencies as a hate crime.
Defining Hate Crimes
A hate crime is any crime that is committed against a person or property that is motivated, in whole or in part, by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity. In Texas, it is important to note that a hate crime is not a separate offense, but an enhancement of the penalty range of the crime that was committed. Regardless of whether someone is ultimately charged with a “bias motivated” crime, the police department will investigate the case and any suspect or suspects who are developed from the investigation may still face prosecution for the underlying crime.
Impact of Hate Crimes
Hate crimes not only victimize the individuals or institutions who are targeted, but also the entire community or group they represent. Hate crimes instill fear in communities when people are attacked for who they are, their lifestyle, or their beliefs.
Hate Crimes affect:
- The Victim
- Family members
- The Affiliated Group
- The Community at Large
Hate Crimes have the potential to:
- Divide Communities
- Lead to Retaliation and Vigilantism
- Create Protests
How You Can Fight Hate Crime
Hate crimes can create destructive feelings in various communities, especially among groups sensitive to this issue, but there are ways to fight back.
You can fight hate crimes by:
- Immediately reporting any crime you witness or experience to the police. Be sure to write down as many details as possible. Be as specific as possible. If you believe the incident was motivated by bias against you, make sure to tell the responding officer.
- Educating your family and friends about hate crimes and the importance of reporting them.
- Understanding and respecting cultural and individual differences.
Hate crime resources
HPD Hate Crimes Information Line
Houston Police Victims Services
LGBT Switchboard 24-hour helpline
the Montrose Center