Bias Incident Response Team (B.I.R.T.)

About Hate Crimes

What Is A Hate Crime

A hate crime is an act of vandalism or violence motivated by hatred based on gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability that is prohibited by the California Penal Code.  There are many crimes that carry more severe punishments if the motivation for that crime is proven to be hate.

A bias or hate motivated incident may not be a crime, but could include hate-speech or words targeted for a person based on a perception that the individual belongs to a particular gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability. 

Who Are The Victims

Anyone could become a victim of a hate crime for often something the individual has no control over.  Gender, race and often a disability are visible indicators of one's affiliation with a particular group.  However, these physical attributes are often misperceived or assumed.  Religious affiliations and sexual orientation are rarely identified by physical appearances. Victims are often assumed to be members of a particular group.  

When a hate crime does occur, every member of the race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability group involved becomes a victim.  In fact, hate crimes have often victimized entire communities.

Victims of hate crimes rarely do anything to provoke an attack.  They are selected simply because of who they are perceived to be.  

What Are The Crimes

  • Murder motivated by hate based on gender, race, color, religion, nationality, country of origin, disability, gender, or sexual orientation is a "special circumstances" crime eligible for punishment including death or life in prison without parole.
  • Use of force, threats, or destruction of property that interferes with another's exercise of civil rights is a misdemeanor.
  • Committing a crime with the intent of interfering with another's exercise of civil rights is a felony.
  • Violation of a civil order protecting the exercise of civil rights is a misdemeanor.
  • Committing a felony motivated based on the victim's race, color, religion, nationality, country of origin, ancestry, disability, or sexual orientation is eligible for an enhanced prison sentence.
  • Vandalism of a place of worship is a felony.
  • Committing acts of terrorism, such as burning a cross, on private property is a misdemeanor.
  • Committing acts of religious terrorism is a felony.
  • Use of explosives in an act of terrorism in special places, such as churches, health facilities, etc., is a felony.
  • Absent a threat of violence, speech alone does not constitute a hate crime.
 Why Report A Hate Crime

It is difficult to hold law enforcement accountable for crimes that occur in any community unless they are reported.  There is no way of knowing that a problem exists unless it is identified and reported.  Law enforcement officers in California are specially trained in how identify and investigate hate crimes.  They understand how vulnerable victims of these crimes may feel and have the knowledge and skills necessary to help victims recover.

An even more important reason to report every hate crime is so that those responsible may be caught, prosecuted, and prevented from victimizing others.  Hate crimes victims who do not come forward put other people at risk.

How To Report A Hate Crime

If you witness a crime in progress, call 9-1-1.  Be sure to tell the dispatcher exactly where you are and describe what is happening.  If you are reporting something that is not an emergency or that happened some time ago, call the non-emergency telephone number for the police or sheriff's department.

If you are the victim of a hate crime and do not want to be alone when you make a police report, you can have someone with you - a close friend, family member, or anyone who you feel comfortable with.  

You may be eligible for financial assistance for your medical expenses and for counseling.

Emergency Response To Any Location - 9-1-1
American Canyon Police Department - 648-0171
Calistoga Police Department - 942-2810
Napa County Sheriff's Department - 253-4451
Napa Police Department - 253-9223
Napa Valley College Police Department - 253-3333
St. Helena Police Department - 967-2850
Yountville Police Department - 253-4451
Napa County District Attorney - 253-4211

How To Prevent Hate Crimes

People are not born to hate.  Hate is a learned behavior that begins early in life as children watch their parents and relatives as well as their peers on the play ground.  Hate is a product of ignorance and is fueled by fear and anger.  Hate can be "unlearned" through education and awareness.

Modeling tolerance is an important form of personal leadership than can help change attitudes one person at a time.  Be sensitive to jokes and remarks that demonstrate intolerance.  Avoid using slang terms or other disparaging words.  Set a positive example, and others will follow.  Remember... hate-speech is often at the root of hate violence.

 "You must be the change that you want to see in the World."   -Ghandi