Story at a glance
- A record number of hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in 2019.
- A majority of these were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity or ancestry.
- About half of the known offenders were white.
More hate crimes were reported to the FBI in 2019 than in more than a decade, according to the agency’s latest report released Monday.
There were 7,314 criminal incidents and 8,559 related offenses reported to the FBI’s data collection program about bias-motivated incidents in 2019. More than half of these were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity and ancestry, while another 20 percent were motivated by religion and 16.7 percent were motivated against sexual orientation, with the remaining due to gender, gender identity and disability.
“The FBI’s report is another reminder that we have much work to do to address hate in America,” said Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in a statement. “Each of these incidents represents the targeting of an individual or community for violence or vandalism because of their identity or personal characteristics.”
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Of the 6,406 known offenders, about half were white, while about 24 percent were Black and 14 percent were unknown, and the remaining percentage was split between other races. Most of the incidents, or about a quarter, occurred in or near homes, while another 18 percent happened on roads or sidewalks. Close to 10 percent occurred at schools or colleges, and another 5 percent each happened in parking lots or garages and religious centers.
Although hate crime data for this year is not yet available, a polarizing election, demonstrations against police brutality and a global pandemic set the backdrop for another year of increasing hate crimes. In March, Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) reported that racism against Asian Americans had surged after the COVID-19 outbreak, with “at least 1,000 hate crimes incidents being reported against Asian Americans” after the pandemic arrived in the United States. This summer, the New York City Police Department formed a new task force dedicated to investigating mounting numbers of hate crimes against Asian Americans. At the same time, a record number of transgender Americans have been killed thus far in 2020.
“When one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it hurts the whole community—that’s why people are feeling vulnerable and afraid,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti Defamation League, in a statement.
This year, the FBI made several changes to its Uniform Crime Reporting Program, including more frequent releases and a new platform for data collection. More than 15,000 law enforcement agencies contributed data this year, according to the FBI, but just more than 2,000 — or 14 percent — of participating agencies actively reported at least one hate crime.
Voluntary reporting, however, can also mean underreporting, both by law enforcement and victims. Last year, the FBI reported a drop in hate crimes in 2018 compared to 2017, although data from the National Crime Victimization Survey suggested the actual number was higher.
“While some of the increase in 2019 may be the product of better reporting in some jurisdictions, it is critical to improve training at local law enforcement agencies across the country,” Greenblatt said in the statement, adding that the ADL is working with its partners to improve participation in the FBI’s data collection process.
“We also need to remove the barriers that too often prevent people in marginalized communities – the individuals most likely to suffer hate crimes – from reporting hate-based incidents in the first instance,” Greenblatt said. “In this pivotal moment in our national conversation about the importance of justice for communities of color, religious minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community, we must make combating hate crimes a top priority.”
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