Atlanta at center of jump in anti-LGBTQ hate crimes

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Two-thirds of the 28 anti-LGBTQ hate crimes reported in Georgia by the FBI in 2020 occurred in metro Atlanta.

The number of overall hate crimes in the state doubled for the second year in a row, according to the FBI’s 2020 Hate Crime Statistics Report released last month.

The metro-area crimes motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias took place in the cities of Atlanta, College Park, Decatur, Forest Park, Milton, Smyrna (two); the counties of Cherokee, Clayton (two), Cobb, DeKalb (two) and Forsyth (two). One each also occurred at Georgia Tech and within the Fulton County School System.

The anti-LGBTQ hate crimes occurring outside of metro Atlanta took place in the cities of Eastman, Temple, Thomasville and Warner Robins; the counties of Hall, Coffee and Lumpkin (two); and the municipality of Athens-Clarke County.

The Georgia State Capitol on Washington Street in downtown Atlanta. (Photo by Matt Hennie)

New hate crime law makes an impact

Only 68 of the 401 Georgia law enforcement agencies that provided data to the FBI reported any hate crimes in 2020. That 17 percent reporting rate is slightly higher than the national average. Still, there are a total of 657 law enforcement agencies in Georgia, leaving 256 that did not provide any data for the report.

Experts attribute the rise in reporting to the state’s passage of an LGBTQ-inclusive hate crimes law in 2020, but these types of crimes remain underreported.

The Anti-Defamation League said the hate crimes law passed in Georgia last year was “a monumental step forward” in improving data on such incidents.

“Yet, underreporting of hate crimes in Georgia, and nationwide, is a severe obstacle to investigation and prosecution of these crimes, which leads to a lack of accountability for bias-motivated offenses that can intimidate, isolate, and terrify entire communities,” said ADL southern division vice president Allison Padilla-Goodman.

The statewide legislation enhances penalties for crimes that target a victim based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender, and mental or physical disability. It also calls for law enforcement agencies to track hate crimes and report them to the GBI.

Some municipalities throughout metro Atlanta have specific hate crime legislation that mandates reporting incidents to the GBI or FBI. They include Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Doraville and Fulton County. Other cities in Georgia – including Dunwoody, Savannah and Statesboro – wrapped hate crime tracking and reporting into their LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.

700 percent increase in anti-gay crime

Statewide, Georgia law enforcement reported 196 hate crimes in 2020, according to the new FBI report. That’s a 92 percent increase from 102 reported in 2019.

Hate crimes in Georgia motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry soared by 352 percent from 2018 to 2020. Incidents motivated by religion increased by 420 percent in the same time period.

But that pales in comparison to the rate of increase in Georgia hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation. Just three were reported in 2018, followed by seven in 2019 and then 24 in 2020 — a 700 percent increase in three years.

Official FBI stats stayed flat on gender-identity hate crimes in Georgia. The FBI reported zero in Georgia for 2018, followed by four in 2019 and four in 2020. But there were at least five trans or gender non-conforming people killed or who died under questionable circumstances in Georgia last year, as previously reported by Project Q Atlanta.

So far this year, at least two trans people have been murdered in Georgia. Authorities arrested a suspect in the death of one of those victims last month.

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