A hate crime is when an individual, or group of individuals, targets (with the intention to harm) a person, or group of people based on certain characteristics. These characteristics include, but are not limited to gender, race, and socio economic status. Harming these people can range anywhere from emotional abuse to physical abuse and everything in between.
The FBI began investigating hate crimes in the 1920's and many of those investigations dealt with crimes such as lynchings and burning of synagogues. The first hate crime case that was investigated dealt with the Ku Klux Klan.
There are steep penalties for those who commit a hate crime.
Hate crime refers to crimes motivated by intolerance toward certain groups in society. These types of crimes have very high potential of fragmenting the society, and destabilizing it by creating a cycle of violence and retaliation between groups. Hate crimes are rooted in the prejudices or biases that people have about people from other groups and for this reason hate crimes are also called bias crimes.
Hate crime is based on hate or other negative feelings like resentment and jealousy between different social grouping criteria such as such as ethnic, religious, national regional colour, language and caste. It could even be based on gender or profession.
The nature of offences committed could be very serious ones like killing, arson and looting. But it also include offences like intimidation and threat. Hate crimes are committed not with the intent of hurting the particular victim, but to hurt and intimidated the entire group to which the victim belongs.
The website referred below gives a detailed paper on hate crime titled Hate Crime Laws: A Practical Guide, Published by OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Hate Crime is special type of crime in which the agent or the perpetrator targets a victim because he/she belongs to a social group to which the agent is biased against. Hence hate crimes are also known as 'bias-motivated crime.'
The causes for hate crimes are varied but are usually racial, religious, class, gender, caste, and sexual orientation based.
In addition to physical assault, hate crimes take the form of bullying, harassment, verbal abuse, offensive graffiti, offensive mail known as 'hate mail.'
Hate crimes although they receive a lot of attention today are actually as old as human civilization. All countries have adopted tough laws to deal with the situation. Psychological counselling in addition to legal redress is necessary to rehabilitate a hate crime victim.