2018 map reveals NM has no hate groups

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico is the only state in the country that has no organized hate group presence, according to the recently released 2018 “Hate Map” compiled by the Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.

That may be surprising to some in view of the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics Act report, which late last year indicated the number of hate crimes in New Mexico during 2018 spiked to four times what it had been in 2017.

The two reports are not contradictory.

“It is not necessary to have an organized hate group in your community for hate crimes to occur,” said SPLC interim research director Keegan Hankes. “These are independent of each other. The presence of a hate group obviously contributes and marks the potential for hate crimes, hate incidents and hateful activity in your community.”

Nationwide, the SPLC counted 1,020 hate groups, he said.

Scott Levin

After New Mexico, the states with the fewest hate groups in 2018, according to the SPLC, were Vermont and Wyoming, each with one group; Rhode Island and Delaware, each with two; North Dakota and Iowa, each with three; and Kansas and Alaska, with four each.

The states with the largest number of such groups were California, with 83; Florida, with 75; Texas, with 73; and New York, with 47.

The number of hate groups in New Mexico since 2000 has varied from a high of six in 2013 to zero in 2004, 2005 and 2018, according to the Hate Map.

Among those groups were the Christian Crusade for Truth, World Church of the Creator, National Socialist Movement, Civilian Combat Squad, New Mexico Skinheads, Frontline Aryans, 11th Hour Remnant Messenger, Supreme White Alliance and the Loyal White Knights of the KKK.

In New Mexico, the FBI documented 28 reported hate crimes in 2018, compared with seven reported incidents in 2017. The majority of them, 21, were based on race, ethnicity or national origin. Three were based on religion, three were based on sexual orientation and one on gender identity.

Over the past decade, the most common types of hate incidents (not all of which are technically hate crimes) reported in the Journal have been anti-Semitic, racial or ethnic graffiti in public parks and on public and private buildings; accounts of hostile comments made toward people because of sexual orientation; and reports of university students using or being the target of racial slurs.

Increasingly, acts of violence have been directed at the homeless, some of whom were seriously injured or killed. While the homeless are not now a protected class of individuals, a number of organizations, including the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, have called for legislation to add them as a protected class under the state’s Hate Crimes Statute.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas is attempting to do just that.

He is drafting a proposal to change the state’s Hate Crime Statute to add the homeless as a protected class of people. Other proposed changes include increasing hate crime enhancement penalties attached to more severe underlying crimes; adding civil penalties to the statute; and fixing a loophole that allows hate crimes to be punished less severely than other forms of aggravating circumstances.

“There is no place for violence in New Mexico, let alone violence perpetrated against someone for who they are or what they believe,” Balderas told the Journal. “We must strengthen our laws to ensure that New Mexicans are protected from those who would perpetrate a hate crime against them.”

Scott Levin, Mountain States Regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, agreed that “it doesn’t take a group to commit a hate crime, people can act on their own. … They just might not be organized and meeting together. It may be a whole bunch of lone individuals with extremist ideologies.”

The ADL’s focus is tracking anti-Semitic hate crimes. “Most hate crimes in the United States today are racially based, but there are certainly pockets where religion is going to be a bigger factor,” Levin said. Larger cities tend to have larger populations of Jewish people, “so there is a much higher incidence of anti-Semitic hate crimes there than in other parts of the country.”

The hate crimes reported in New Mexico mirror the national trend in that the most common type was race-based.

Nationally, nearly 50% of race-based hate crimes were directed against African Americans. Hate crimes directed at LGBTQ individuals increased by almost 6%, including a significant 42% increase in crimes directed against transgender individuals. Anti-Hispanic hate crimes increased 14%.

Even though religion-based hate crimes decreased by 8% from 2017, nearly 60% of these hate crimes targeted Jews and Jewish institutions in 2018.

All told, the FBI reported 7,120 hate crimes in 2018, a slight decrease from the 7,175 reported in 2017.

That number, however, is a “dramatic undercount,” Hankes said.

The FBI’s statistics are based on the numbers collected from law enforcement agencies around the country. Unfortunately, the vast majority of law enforcement agencies are not required to report hate crimes for their jurisdictions, so it becomes a voluntary exercise, Hankes said. Also, in many states, hate crimes are classified as an enhancement to other crimes and “are not a charge in and of themselves.”

To underscore just how pervasive hate crimes are, Hankes pointed to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey, which annually collects data on crimes both reported and not reported to police. In the five years between 2013 and 2017, there were an average of 204,000 hate crimes each year.

Hankes said the SPLC has been tracking “a massive spike in hate crimes” in the years following the past presidential cycle. He noted that “one of the drivers of hate crimes is toxic political rhetoric,” particularly in describing immigrants. This language often resonates with fringe hate groups and serves only to provide them with “the ultimate validation of their world view,” Hankes said. “They feel emboldened and empowered, and that their ideas have purchase.”

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