Hate and Bias-Related Crimes

The Arlington County Police Department is committed to serving our diverse and inclusive community while working to ensure Arlington is a place where all people can live safely and without fear. There is significant community harm caused by hate and bias-related crimes, but a perpetrator cannot be held accountable for their actions if the crime is not reported to law enforcement. That’s why the Department is committed to building vital police-community partnerships so that all people feel empowered to report information to police for a thorough investigation.

What is a Hate or Bias-Related Crime?

Hate and bias-related crimes are crimes committed 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.

Hate crimes often fall into two categories:

  • Crimes Against Persons – This includes assault, battery, or actual threats of violence or harm.
  • Crimes Against Property – This includes vandalism, arson, or burning or displaying objects with an intent to intimidate.

Generally speaking, offensive speech, while inappropriate, does not constitute a hate crime, although actual threats of violence or harm are illegal and should be reported. (Virginia Office of the Attorney General)

Hate and bias-related crimes are not separate, distinct offenses, but rather reported crimes with an added element of bias by the offender. Because of the difficulty of ascertaining the offender’s subjective motivation, bias is only reported if the investigation reveals sufficient information to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole, or in part, by bias against race, religion, disability, ethnicity or sexual orientation. (Virginia State Police)

Penalties for Hate and Bias-Related Crime

Virginia law includes stiffer criminal penalties when a crime is motivated by a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion or national origin. However, federal law also provides enhanced penalties for certain crimes that are motivated by a bias against one’s race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. It is also a crime in Virginia to intimidate a person or group of persons by burning crosses, placing swastikas on certain buildings or displaying a noose. Hate crimes in Arlington are investigated by ACPD and prosecuted by the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Violations of federal law are investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice and prosecuted by United States Attorneys.

Virginia Statutes for hate crimes: 18.2-57, 18.2-121 (sentence enhancement for trespass/cause damage to property); 18.2-422 (wearing a mask in public); 18.2-423 (burning a cross on certain property), 18.2-423.01 (burning an object on certain property); 18.2-423.1 (placing a swastika on certain property); 18.2-423.2 (displaying a noose on certain property).

Reporting Hate and Biased-Related Crime

If you believe that you or someone you know has been the victim of a hate crime, contact police immediately.

  • Call 911 in an emergency or to report in-progress crimes.
  • Call 703-558-2222 in Arlington County for non-emergent situations or for crimes that previously occurred.

Preserve any available evidence of the alleged hate or bias-related crime by taking pictures of vandalism, keeping copies of any videos taken, noting witnesses, descriptions of the offender(s), their vehicle(s), etc. This information and evidence should be shared with law enforcement officials investigating the crime you have reported.

More Information: No Hate VA, an initiative of the Virginia Attorney General’s Office

This content is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.