FIU, Miami-Dade State Attorney partner on LGBTQ hate crimes

U.S. Department of Justice-funded study seeks to boost reporting and prosecution

Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals are poorly understood and vastly underreported, making the investigation and prosecution of these crimes extremely difficult. Research on these crimes also pales in comparison to studies of racially-motivated crimes.

To help police and prosecutors better tackle the issue – and improve services to victims – FIU’s Department of Criminal Justice has partnered with the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office and the Miami-Dade Police Department on a two-year project to study LGBTQ hate crimes in the county.

“In Miami, with the population being both majority immigrant and Latino, reporting any crime poses legal and cultural challenges, but reporting crimes committed because of bias against LGBTQ individuals is even more difficult,’’ said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “We are thrilled to partner with Florida International University because it has the capacity to do this work, as well as deep connections with Miami-Dade’s LGBTQ communities.”

Funded by a $500,000 grant from the United State Department of Justice, researchers will interview crime victims, police detectives and prosecutors, as well as review hundreds of case files and court records. The goal is to better understand barriers to reporting LGBTQ hate crimes, motivations of the offenders and challenges to successful investigation and prosecution.

The nonprofit SAVE Foundation, an LGBTQ advocacy organization in Miami, will work closely with FIU to identify participants for the study and produce policy recommendations.

In addition to publishing their findings in academic journals, researchers will share results on social media, via podcast and in mainstream media outlets like the Huffington Post to reach a broader audience.

“This research will be a major step forward in better understanding the nature of LGBTQ hate crimes, how they can be prevented and how our community can better respond to them,” said John F. Stack, Jr., dean of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs at FIU. “Our hope is that these efforts will increase awareness of bias-motivated crimes and help individuals who are the victims of these crimes feel more able to come forward and report them.”