The Hidden Surge

Figure 1 FSB Marketing/Adobe Firefly


How Politics Ignite Hate Crimes and How Young Criminologists Can Tackle Them


By Moslem Boushehrian, Lecturer in Criminology, FSB Croydon


Hate crimes are criminal acts committed against individuals or groups based on attributes such as race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or transgender identity (CPS, 2021). These crimes not only harm the immediate victims but also spread fear and division within communities, undermining societal cohesion and trust (Hall, 2013). Understanding the dynamics behind hate crimes and taking proactive steps to mitigate them is crucial for fostering a more inclusive and equitable society (Romas and Parmer, 1996, McClimens, 2010, Ozeroglu, 2024).


Trigger Events and Hate Crime

Trigger events are significant occurrences that can inflame societal tensions and lead to spikes in hate crimes (Chetty and Alathur, 2019). These events often involve political, social, or economic upheaval, exacerbating existing prejudices and leading to violent expressions of hatred (Malunga, 2020).


Consider the year 2016, a particularly tumultuous period marked by two significant political events: the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom. Both events were characterised by polarising rhetoric and heightened nationalistic sentiments, profoundly affecting social cohesion and intergroup relations (Fortuna, 2019).


Donald Trump’s campaign was noted for its incendiary language, which many perceived as encouraging xenophobia and racism. Statements targeting immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities resonated with a segment of the population, leading to a climate where discriminatory attitudes felt legitimised. Following his election, the United States saw a notable increase in hate crimes, particularly those targeting racial and religious minorities (Ballard et al., 2023). The Southern Poverty Law Center (KARBECHE Ouessal, 2023)reported a spike in hate incidents immediately after the 2016 election, with many perpetrators citing Trump’s rhetoric as a motivating factor.


Simultaneously, across the Atlantic, the Brexit referendum stirred similar tensions. The campaign to leave the European Union was heavily laced with anti-immigrant sentiment. Slogans and speeches often portrayed immigrants as threatening British identity and economic stability (Andreouli and Nicholson, 2018). This narrative incited a wave of nationalism and xenophobia, which resulted in a significant rise in hate crimes. In the aftermath of the referendum, the UK experienced a 41% surge in hate crimes, mainly targeting immigrants and ethnic minorities (Home Office, 2018).


Figure 3 Photo by Colin Lloyd on Unsplash


The COVID-19 pandemic further exemplifies how crises can act as trigger events for hate crimes (Piatkowska and Whittington, 2024). As the virus spread globally, so did misinformation and scapegoating. In many Western countries, Asians became targets of violence and discrimination, unfairly blamed for the outbreak. The pandemic also saw increased antisemitism and Islamophobia, with conspiracy theories fuelling hate and suspicion against these communities (Vergani et al., 2022).


Figure 4 Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash


Recent and Anticipated Trends

The review of the previous surge in hate crime numbers and their correlating timeline with rigger events highlights the relation between trigger events and spikes in hate crimes. For instance, in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, hate crime reports in the UK surged by 41%. Similarly, the Anti-Defamation League (Feldman and Gidley, 2018) reported a 57% increase in antisemitic incidents in the US during Trump’s first year in office.

Looking ahead, the current climate surrounding immigration in the UK, particularly in the context of upcoming elections, suggests that another rise in hate crimes may be on the horizon. Political rhetoric that demonises immigrants can create an environment where hate crimes become more frequent and severe.


Figure 5 Photo by Jannes Van den wouwer on Unsplash


Importance of Learning from the Past and Accountability

Learning from past events is essential in preventing future hate crimes. Historical patterns show that inflammatory rhetoric and policies can lead to spikes in violence and discrimination. Therefore, it is crucial for society to hold influential individuals accountable for their words and actions. Leaders who incite hatred or fail to condemn it unequivocally contribute to a culture where hate crimes are more likely to occur.

Criminological Theories on Power Dynamics

Understanding the role of power dynamics in politics and governance is vital in addressing hate crimes. Several criminological theories offer insights into how power influences hate crime prevalence:


  • Conflict Theory

This theory posits that societal conflicts arise when dominant groups exploit subordinate groups to maintain power. Hate crimes can be seen as a manifestation of these conflicts, where dominant groups use violence to reinforce their position (Iwama, 2018).

  • Social Dominance Theory

This theory suggests that societies are hierarchically structured, with dominant groups striving to maintain their status through systemic oppression. Hate crimes are a tool to sustain these hierarchies by instilling fear in marginalised communities (Hummel, 2018).

  • Critical Race Theory

This framework examines how laws and policies perpetuate racial inequalities. It highlights the systemic nature of racism and how it can lead to hate crimes through both overt actions and institutional biases (Grimes, 2018).


Preventive Measures and the Role of Future Leaders

Preventing the rise in hate crimes necessitates a commitment to proactive measures and moral leadership. Future leaders and politicians must be acutely aware of their words and policies’ impact on marginalised communities. This awareness is not merely a matter of political correctness but a fundamental aspect of fostering an inclusive and just society (Gonzalez-Gorman, 2018).

Education on diversity, equity, and inclusion is paramount. Leaders need to be educated and morally attuned, understanding the profound consequences that their rhetoric can have. When leaders speak, their words can either build bridges or widen chasms within society. For instance, a leader who uses divisive language may unwittingly endorse or embolden those with hateful agendas, leading to increased victimisation of already vulnerable groups (Chakraborti, 2018).


Figure 6 Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash



Promoting inclusive and respectful dialogue is another critical measure. Leaders can help mitigate the conditions that lead to hate crimes by setting a tone of respect and understanding. Policies should not just aim to punish hate crimes after they occur but should also focus on protecting vulnerable groups and addressing the root causes of prejudice (Walters et al., 2018).


For example, after witnessing the surge in hate crimes post-Brexit and during the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes clear that leaders must actively counteract misinformation and stereotypes that fuel xenophobia and racism. By fostering environments that celebrate diversity and encourage solidarity, leaders can help prevent the societal fractures that give rise to hate crimes.


The role of future leaders and politicians is pivotal in combating hate crimes. Through education and moral vigilance, they can cultivate a society where respect for diversity is not just an ideal but a lived reality. As young criminologists, it would be your role to advocate for such leadership and to strive for a world where every individual is safe and valued, free from the threat of hate-driven violence (Murphy, 2021).


Call to Action

As alums, prospective students, or academics, we each hold a crucial role in combating hate crimes. Our collective efforts can significantly impact the creation of a safer and more inclusive society.


Engaging in advocacy is a powerful way to effect change. By advocating for policies that promote inclusion and hold leaders accountable for hate speech and actions, we can help shape a political landscape that rejects intolerance. Advocacy isn’t limited to large-scale campaigns; it can be as personal as voicing our concerns to elected officials or participating in local community meetings.


Education and raising awareness are also essential. Those of us in academic settings have a unique platform to disseminate knowledge and foster understanding. By educating others about the impact of hate crimes and the importance of diversity and inclusion, we can challenge prejudiced narratives and replace them with stories of empathy and solidarity. For instance, creating workshops, seminars, and open discussions about these issues can engage and enlighten our communities.


Supporting affected communities is another vital aspect of our role. Standing in solidarity with those targeted by hate crimes goes beyond mere words; it involves active support and participation in initiatives that promote social cohesion. Whether it’s through volunteering with organisations that aid victims of hate crimes, participating in solidarity marches, or contributing to community-building projects, our actions can provide tangible support and show that we stand united against hatred.


By taking these steps, we contribute to a society where hate crimes are not tolerated, and everyone feels safe and valued. Our collective efforts can dismantle the structures of prejudice and build a foundation of mutual respect and understanding, ensuring a brighter, more inclusive future for all.



Figure 7 Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash





ANDREOULI, E. & NICHOLSON, C. 2018. Brexit and everyday politics: An analysis of focus‐group data on the EU referendum. Political Psychology, 39, 1323-1338.

BALLARD, A. O., DETAMBLE, R., DORSEY, S., HESELTINE, M. & JOHNSON, M. 2023. Dynamics of polarizing rhetoric in congressional tweets. Legislative Studies Quarterly, 48, 105-144.

CHAKRABORTI, N. 2018. Responding to hate crime: Escalating problems, continued failings. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 18, 387-404.

CHETTY, N. & ALATHUR, S. Trigger Event and Hate Content: Insights from Twitter Analytics.  2019 International Conference on Advances in Computing and Communication Engineering (ICACCE), 2019. IEEE, 1-5.

CPS. 2021. Hate Crime [Online]. Available: [Accessed 01/07/2024 2024].

FELDMAN, D. & GIDLEY, B. 2018. Antisemitism and Immigration in Western Europe Today Is there a connection? Berlin: Stiftung EVZ.

FORTUNA, A. 2019. Polarization: Rhetorical strategies in the Tea Party network, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG.

GONZALEZ-GORMAN, S. 2018. Political speech as a weapon: Microaggression in a changing racial and ethnic environment, Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

GRIMES, J. N. 2018. Hate, conflict, and public space: Stand your ground laws and potential immunity for hate crimes. J. Hate Stud., 15, 83.

HALL, N. 2013. Hate Crime, London, Routledge.

HOME OFFICE 2018. Hate crime, England and Wales, 2017/18, London, Home Office.

HUMMEL, D. 2018. Hate Groups and Muslim Population Changes in the Fifty States: Does the Presence of Muslims Encourage Hate Group Formation? international journal on minority and group rights, 25, 317-332.

IWAMA, J. A. 2018. Hate Crime Research in the Twenty‐First Century. The Handbook of Race, Ethnicity, Crime, and Justice, 87-104.

KARBECHE OUESSAL, T. A. A. 2023. Negative Rhetoric in Donald Trump’s Political Discourse and its Implications.

MALUNGA, S. 2020. Hate speech: The trigger and fuel of violent atrocity [Online]. NewsHawks. Available: [Accessed 01/07/2024].

MCCLIMENS, A. 2010. Face up to hate crime: Alex McClimens urges the profession to be more proactive in promoting tolerance and eradicating discrimination. Learning Disability Practice, 13, 11-12.

MURPHY, A. 2021. Political rhetoric and hate speech in the case of Shamima Begum. Religions, 12, 834.

OZEROGLU, A. 2024. Empowering Communities: Proactive Strategies to Combat Hate Crime Victimization. Modern Insights and Strategies in Victimology. IGI Global.

PIATKOWSKA, S. J. & WHITTINGTON, W. 2024. COVID-19 as a trigger for racially motivated and extremist violent crime: a temporal analysis of hate crimes in Slovakia amidst a global pandemic. Crime, Law and Social Change, 81, 99-126.

ROMAS, T. & PARMER, H. 1996. Workplace Violence, Hate Crime and Free Speech: A Proactive Approach.

VERGANI, M., MARTINEZ ARRANZ, A., SCRIVENS, R. & ORELLANA, L. 2022. Hate speech in a telegram conspiracy channel during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Social Media+ Society, 8, 20563051221138758.

WALTERS, M., OWUSU-BEMPAH, A. & WIEDLITZKA, S. 2018. Hate crime and the ‘justice gap’: The case for law reform. Criminal Law Review, 12, 961-986.

Blog Attachment