Hate crimes in the US remained relatively high last year after a rise not seen in nearly two decades, according to a new FBI report. But experts say it’s actually an undercount because thousands of police departments, including some of the largest in the country, have not reported their data.
Major cities like New York and Los Angeles, as well as large swaths of states including Florida and California, have not sent any crime information to the FBI before 2021, largely due to changes in reporting requirements. The agency normally provides the most comprehensive picture of hate crimes in the country, so this year’s report is concerning for advocates trying to address spikes in hate crimes that have increased fear among marginalized groups and sparked calls to take the issue head-on. to deal with.
“Hate crimes tear the fabric of our society and traumatize entire communities,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, as he called on law enforcement to commit to data collection on hate crimes. “The failure of major states and cities across the country to report hate crime data essentially – and inexcusably – erases the lived experience of marginalized communities across the country.”
The disturbing trend continued this year with a string of brutal, high-profile hate crimes, including a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs and another targeting black people at a Buffalo grocery store.
The nearly 7,300 hate crimes documented in the report are the third-highest total in the past decade and are deeply alarming, Greenblatt said. The majority of victims were targeted because of their race, followed by sexual orientation and religion. But while the FBI report pointed to a small drop from 2020 to 2021, other research has found a disturbing increase in hate crimes last year.
The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino found a 21% increase from 2020 to 2021 in an analysis of 20 states, based on police data.
Meanwhile, in cities of more than 1 million, hate crimes increased by 39%, his research found, with particularly steep spikes in anti-Asian hate crimes. Big cities are key to hate crime data because they tend to be more diverse and have more ways for people to tell authorities about hate crimes, which are historically underreported, he said. But many were missing from this year’s FBI report.
“We’re possibly talking about a record for 2021 that America just doesn’t know,” said Brian Levin, a professor of criminal justice and the center’s director. “All data has limitations, but this data is so incomplete that large parts of places where the most terrorized communities live are left out.”
Less than two-thirds of the nearly 19,000 eligible law enforcement agencies reported hate crime data for 2021 to the FBI, a sharp drop from more than 80% the year before. That’s because the federal agency has moved to a new, more detailed reporting system. Police forces, including those in the country’s largest cities, said they were unable to transition to the new system in time. Collecting crime data from police departments has always been voluntary, and the bumpy transition also hampered violent crime data.
Federal authorities acknowledge the shortfall, but say the new system will eventually give the country a “richer and more complete picture of hate crimes across the country,” Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. The Justice Department is doing a number of things to address the rise in hate crimes, including prioritizing those investigations at field offices around the country, awarding millions in grants to local law enforcement and adding new resources for victims in more languages, she said.
“The Justice Department is committed to prioritizing the prevention, investigation and prosecution of hate crimes,” she said. “The FBI’s 2021 hate crime statistics are a reminder that we must continue our vigorous efforts to address this pervasive problem in America.”