Hatred’s Fertile Ground – The United States

Welcome to RDC Insider Insights. This monthly series covers a multitude of modern-day financial crimes. We’ve analyzed our global datasets to understand how certain types of crimes and risks are changing over time, both globally and in regional splits, to uncover trends and provide insights. .

A Rising Trend in Hate Crimes

The Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. makes up a quarter of the humanitarian crime captured by RDC
  • We capture humanitarian crimes that range from war crimes to unlawful imprisonment, but those captured in the U.S.  lean further towards hate crimes
  • 80.4% of the humanitarian events captured in the U.S. in the last 5 years are directly related to hate crimes
  • Humanitarian crime has risen 35% in the U.S. in the same time period
  • Population density explains high rates of incidents in areas such as Washington D.C., while ares with a lower number of incidents, such as Nevada, have proportionally higher rates of hate crime incidents given state population density
  • Financial institutions should make decisions based on risk, and RDC’s captures of humanitarian crimes can help prevent a public relations crisis from onboarding the wrong individual

Biased-driven crimes, including those encompassing domestic terrorism, have taken over headlines as hate crime rises in the United States. RDC captures many different types of humanitarian crimes (HUM) including, but not limited to, war crimes, hate crimes, Geneva Convention violations, extrajudicial executions, political prisoners, etc. In the United States, these captures are trending heavily towards one specific facet of humanitarian crimes: hate crime. Hate crimes are defined as any criminal offenses that are motivated by prejudice, usually against different races, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations, etc. In recent years, hate crime has not only increased in number, but in severity. Violent acts of this nature have also been heavily associated with assault (AST), illegal weapon possession (IGN), and murder (MUR).

Figure 1. US cities that reported the highest numbers of humanitarian crimes. Hate crimes have increased in violence,  especially in Brooklyn and NYC. NYPD recently created a special unit to fight far-right extremist groups, known as “Racially and Ethnically Motivated Extremism,” or “R.E.M.E.” The FBI has noted that the victims of crimes captured in these areas have shifted, with a specific rise in discrimination against Latinxs. Anti-Semitic crimes are increasing as well and are particularly prevalent in New York.

 

Financial institutions should be aware of the use of criminal funds to thwart civil rights. No financial institution wants to be named in association with an individual or organization founded on discriminatory principles and violent actions. RDC’s goal is to stop crime before it happens. With comprehensive risk profiles built from major to local media sources, government watchlists, and comprehensive sanctions lists, our data shows that hate crime is a major humanitarian crisis in the United States: hate crime makes up an average of 80.4% of the captures for national Humanitarian Crimes.

The United States House Judiciary committee has recently probed the rise of hate crimes in the United States, aiming to “examine the causes of racial and religious violence, assess the adequacy of federal hate crimes statutes, and scrutinize targeted domestic surveillance of specific groups” (Read a copy of the full letter detailing the reasons for the investigation.) Anti-Semitism, white nationalism, political extremism: these are all prevalent in the United States as individuals and groups alike are motivated by discrimination, leading to a rampant rise in the use of hate speech and violent acts.

Percentage of New York hate crimes reported in New York City

Not only have hate crimes been publicly scrutinized through legal pathways, they have been researched by academics, many of whom have noted this trend rising since 2016. In 2019, the percentage of hate crimes out of humanitarian crime was the highest at 84.1%. Beyond hate crimes, extreme right-wing terrorism in the US has also risen over the last decade. Between 2007 and 2011, the average number of extreme right-wing terrorist attacks was five per year. Between 2012 and 2016, the frequency increased to ~14 per year. In 2017, the number skyrocketed to 31 attacks.

One specific example of domestic terrorism predicated on hate in 2019 is the attack in El Paso, Texas, in which the perpetrator was sentenced to prison for carrying out a mass shooting in a Wal-Mart that killed 22 people and injured more than 20 others. Before the incident, the shooter posted a manifesto on 8chan, a known message board for promoting hate crime and harassment operations. The manifesto was anti-Hispanic, anti-Immigration, and promoted the rise of violent right-wing extremism.

The Pop(ulation) Factor  

What renders an atmosphere of hate crimes? What renders an atmosphere in which hate crimes are prosecuted and presented in the media? Population is one factor—the four most populous states are in the top 5 states with captured hate crime events. However, this does not explain the full picture. For example, Washington state, District of Columbia, and Louisiana (the 13th, 50th and 25th most populous states, respectively) rest in the top 10 regions with the highest captures of hate crimes.  

Fig. 2 The top 10 U.S. state by humanitarian crime coverage, pulled from RDC GRID

 

One exception to the population rule is the city of Bergholz, Ohio, a primarily Amish village. The Bergholz Barbers trial resulted in 16 people convicted for maliciously slashing the beards of other Amish community members amidst tensions between Amish sects. The severity of this case, at the intersection of organized crime and domestic terrorism, is underscored by the Amish community’s general refrain from working with federal authorities and being involved in public media. (Read more about this case.)

The outlier: Bergholz, pop. 664 surpassed Cleveland in reported hate crimes due to a severe case.

The Urban Divide

Density is another factor in the occurrence and prosecution of hate crimes. Although DC has the 7th highest number of hate crimes, the ratio of hate crimes to population density is negligible. Meanwhile, Nevada, ranked 22nd in absolute hate crime numbers, has the highest rate of incidents relative to their population density.

Figure 3. Top 25 states in terms of humanitarian crime coverage per capita

Although hate crime enforcement is concentrated in denser regions, we observe a majority of each state’s hate crimes occurring outside of their major metropolitan area(s). However, the urban divide, so to speak, of hate crimes is not consistent across states. New York City holds a majority of the state’s hate crime events, similarly to Las Vegas, Nevada, and Portland, Oregon. Boston hosts nearly half of all Massachusetts hate crime events. These stats may not indicate a higher instance of hate crimes in these areas as much as they do greater enforcement and media coverage of hate crimes.  

Top 20 Hate Crime Coverage Cities as a Proportion of their State’s Hate Crime Events

Reputational Risk  

Hate crimes in the United States are enforced by various preventative policies. However, increasingly acrimonious political rhetoric can alter the atmosphere and boldness of bias within our societies, heightening the chances of a blemish on an organization’s or prominent figure’s reputation. For example, 8chan was a website that hosted open message boards, the company became a magnet for perpetrators of hate crime (including the El Paso, Texas shooter mentioned earlier). It was ultimately shut down when Cloudflare refused to continue hosting the site –  fearing that its reputation would be associated with domestic terrorism, mass shootings, and political extremism. Similarly, PayPal, after finding posts written by the Tree of Life Synagogue shooter on Gab, initiated a ban of the website from its financial services. Despite Gab’s condemnation of the action, PayPal understood the reputational and financial risks, and decided to distance itself from the company.

As a KYC/AML technology company, we ensure our clients are aware of the risks certain customers pose through our gold-standard screening services. Financial institutions should take extra caution while onboarding customers for many reasons, including image. As important as KYC procedures are to financial institutions, know your supply chain can be even more important for reputational risk. Corporations have been fined millions of dollars for human rights violations committed by their vendors. In most cases, regulatory action is taken against the company, making it harder to rebuild a positive reputation in the short run. Large companies have recently found themselves with widespread news coverage regarding hate crimes committed by both their high-level executives and their employees. Negative media coverage surrounding hate crimes not only effects a company’s image, but it negatively impacts the company’s investor outlook. By using a risk-based approach when screening customers and vendors, institutions can be protected from processing and holding illicit funds.