Hate crimes up slightly in Mass. in 2020

A larger percentage related to racial, ethnic bias

THE NUMBER of hate crimes in Massachusetts increased slightly in 2020, with a larger percentage related to racial and ethnic bias, according to a new report issued by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.  

In 2020, the report found, there were 385 incidents of hate crimes reported by police departments, up from 376 in 2019. 

There have been a number of high-profile hate crimes in recent years, including a white supremacist gunning down a Black retired state police trooper and retired air force veteran, and a Brighton rabbi stabbed outside a Jewish day school, both in 2021. But as CommonWealth reported, it can be difficult to obtain timely data on the prevalence of hate crimes.   

The number of hate crimes detailed in the state report is relatively consistent with where the numbers have been for several years. 

The EOPPS report includes data from most of the state’s municipal police agencies plus some campus police forces and the Massachusetts General Hospital police. Thirty-eight agencies did not report data. Boston alone reported 121 hate crimes, and all other communities reported fewer than 20 each. The MBTA Police were among the agencies that did not respond. 

Around one-third of the crimes involved vandalism or property destruction – like graffiti – and another nearly one-third involved intimidation. Another 30 percent involved assault, though the definition of simple assault can also include attempted assault. There were 45 incidents of bias-related assaults where injuries were reported, or 11.3 percent of cases. Most of these – 36 – involved minor injuries. 

Two-thirds of the crimes were motivated by racial or ethnic bias, a large increase from the approximately half of crimes motivated by race or ethnicity in 2019. Bias related to religion or sexual orientation motivated around 15 percent of incidents each. 

Of 222 bias crimes related to race, 168 were listed as anti-Black incidents. The report says a number of incidents related to the theft or destruction of Black Lives Matters signs. There were 22 anti-Asian incidents, and 30 anti-White. Another 24 crimes were listed as anti-Hispanic or Latino. The religious group most targeted, by far, were Jews, with 51 anti-Jewish incidents. There were 70 incidents related to bias because of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

The most serious crimes – assault – tended to be anti-Black. The report found that 25 of 46 cases of aggravated assault, a charge that is often filed when someone is injured, were listed as anti-Black crimes. 

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Overall, Whites were listed as victims in 72 percent of cases, up from 54 percent in 2019, while Blacks made up 24 percent of victims. Only six victims, 3 percent, were Asian. But the report notes that in more than 130 cases, the victim’s race was missing or unknown.  

Whites made up 77.5 percent of offenders, and Blacks 22 percent, in cases where the offender’s race was known.