Hate Crimes – The Danger to Your Organization’s Mail


“The NYPD recorded 184 hate crimes through June 2 — up from 112 in 2018 — during a period when the city experienced a continued reduction in overall crimes.”

— New York Times

What is a Hate Crime?

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “crime in which the perpetrators acted based on a bias against the victim’s race, color, religion, or national origin.” They also include “crimes committed against those based on biases of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.”

These types of crime can play out as “a traditional offence like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.” But the crime can also be in the form of mail – a package or a letter.

Last October, the FBI released hate crime statistics from 2017 reporting they rose more than 17% led by increases in minority and religious attacks.

“It is the biggest annual increase in reported hate crimes since 2001, when attacks on Muslims surged in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, and the third straight year that hate crimes have gone up.”

— LA Times

What Does This Mean for My Organization?

Targeting an individual or a well-known organization, or targeting a non-profit’s mission or an organization’s goals is a real and current danger.

Whether the hate crime is committed by a group or by a lone wolf, the incidents overall are rising.

What is the danger?

There is always the possibility of dangerous mailed hate crimes containing chemical threats, biological threats, radiological, nuclear and mail bomb threats. However, even ‘simple’ threatening letters can be illegal.

Organizations can easily be targeted for their beliefs or for the causes they champion. These can be political, religious or social. In the past year, religion has been a large target for all manner of hate crimes including dangerous and deadly mail attacks.

The motivation for the hate crime is sometimes only based on a company having a well-known brand where the hate would make its biggest impact for notoriety.

These hateful and disturbed individuals and organizations are always looking to find ways to make their message known, while often the groups would like to also grow their membership.

What is the difference between Threatening Letters and Hate Mail?

Threatening Letter: According the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), it is a letter “threatening a person’s reputation, blackmail or extortion through the mail.” This is considered a federal crime.

Hate Mail: This is a letter containing usually negative, hostile and hurtful language targeting a person or group based on a bias. If the letter does not contain certain threats, then sometimes it is not considered a crime.

Religious Hate Crimes are Making Headlines

Religious Freedom Report Offers Grim Review Of Attacks On Faith Groups – NPR

While many types of hate are causing threats, religious-oriented hate crimes are a troubling trend for all beliefs and religious organizations.

“Hate crimes surge in NYC, attacks on Jews almost double”


What should we look for?

Again, for hate crimes the full spectrum of all possible mail threats should be mitigated. All causes for question or suspicion must be taken seriously.

Any of these items or a combination can indicate a dangerous package:

  • Excessive postage
  • Sealed with extra tape and material
  • Restrictive markings like “Personal” or “Private”
  • Lack of return address
  • Lopsided or uneven package
  • Strange odors, stains or leakage
  • Badly typed or written addressing
  • Misspelled words
  • Return address from a foreign country or does not match postmarking


Basic steps for Mailroom Safety include:

  1. Put a plan in writing
  2. Install correct sensor equipment
  3. Train employees
  4. Run practice drills

If this is not possible, consider outsourcing mail screening to a third party or sending mail to a third party screening facility. As always, I appreciate your comments.