The FBI released its hate crime tally for 2021 on Monday, but the report has fallen dramatically short of an accurate national snapshot: It excludes data from a number of law enforcement agencies — including Los Angeles and New York.
The FBI’s annual summary of hate crime statistics was based on data from 65% of the nation’s roughly 18,800 law enforcement agencies, up from 93% in 2020.
Despite this, the 2021 annual report documented 7,262 criminal incidents motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation or other factors – down from 8,263 in 2020, but high given the lack of official involvement.
Associate Atty. Gen. Vanita Gupta attributed the decline in data from key metro areas and states to a technological shift: the federal agency recently switched to a different system for law enforcement agencies to report crime data under the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and agencies that had not yet switched over could not provide the FBI with hate crime statistics.
“The Justice Department continues to work with law enforcement agencies across the country to increase the reporting of hate crime statistics to the FBI to ensure we have the data to accurately identify and prevent hate crimes,” Gupta said in a statement .
The absence of a third of law enforcement agencies – including some of the country’s largest cities – makes it difficult for criminologists, policymakers and historians to draw any meaningful conclusions about national trends in hate crime.
In California, only 15 out of 740 law enforcement agencies submitted data to the FBI through the new data system in 2021. That meant the FBI for California counted just 73 hate crime cases in the state — far below the 1,339 the FBI documented in 2020.
In Florida, participation was even lower: only two out of 757 law enforcement agencies in that state submitted data through the new portal, and only one hate crime was reported.
Some experts said the FBI report should never have been released.
“It is a critically flawed, incomplete document that does not capture the basic elements that criminologists want to know,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, who urged the FBI to to change the report. “You can’t skip most of California and Florida!”
Levin said the FBI statistics were particularly disappointing because they failed to capture what he believed to be a significant national increase in hate crimes. If only the 2021 figures for New York City and California were added, the national totals would jump above 9,000 for only the second time since the FBI began collecting hate crime data in 1991.
Levin, who compiles his own hate crime database from Freedom of Information Act requests and government websites, noted that much of the information is not difficult to obtain. Back in June, the California Attorney General’s office announced an increase of 1,763 hate crimes in 2021.
The precipitous decline in the number of participating agencies — many of which are among the highest reporting and most reliable agencies — made the FBI report “unintentionally deceptive” in documenting general trends, Levin said. It also failed to accurately detail the increase in reported attacks against specific groups, such as Asians and Jews.
Earlier this year, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism released a report showing a 20% increase in hate crimes in 2021 and a 224% increase in anti-Asian crime.
“We had a record year for hate crimes against Asians,” Levin said. “We counted more anti-Asian hate crimes in just 21 cities than the FBI counted nationally.”
While the FBI showed a decrease in hate crimes against Jews, investigation of its own group found a significant increase.
The FBI is required by law to collect hate crime data from federal, state, local, tribal, and university law enforcement agencies as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting program. However, participation is only mandatory for federal law enforcement.
Summarizing the 2021 data, the FBI said that 65% of victims were targeted because of perpetrators’ bias against their race, ethnicity, or ancestry, 16% because of sexual orientation, 13% because of religion, and 4% because of guilt became to gender identity.
The FBI also found that in 2022 more agencies would use NIBRS.
“As more agencies move to NIBRS data collection, with continued support from the Department of Justice, hate crime statistics will provide a more comprehensive and complete picture of hate crimes across the country in the years to come,” the agency said in a statement.
Some civil rights groups have condemned law enforcement’s failure to provide local information through the NIBRS system.
“The failure of thousands of law enforcement agencies across the country to participate in this report is devastating to the individuals and communities harmed by these crimes and our ability to understand and prevent them,” said Margaret Huang, President and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center. said in a statement.
Until legislation requires it Law Enforcement Agencies to Report Hate Crimes Huang said federal funding for agencies should be conditional on thorough hate crime reporting or meaningful hate crime prevention.
“We can and must do better,” Huang said.
Orlando Martinez, the Los Angeles Police Department’s hate crimes coordinator, said his agency is working to install the NIBRS system but has not yet deployed the program. Nevertheless, he emphasized that his agency is holding back nothing: it has submitted hate crime statistics to the California Department of Justice via an online portal.
In 2021, Martinez said, the LAPD reported 616 hate crimes, a significant increase from 359 in 2020.
“Even though we’re not in the computer database that everyone looks at, they have our stats,” Martinez said. “It’s just not in that format.”
Just last week, a report released by the County Commission on Human Relations found that hate crimes in Los Angeles County rose 20% in 2021 compared to 2020, to a 20-year high. Racially motivated crimes rose 17%, according to the report, with blacks being disproportionately targeted and accounting for nearly half of racial hate crime victims.
A major reason for the increase is that Los Angeles County has made it easier to report hate crimes in recent years. In 2020, officials launched the LA vs Hate program, which includes a “Report Hate” hotline to report “acts of verbal or physical aggression, refusal, bullying, or intimidation of any kind motivated by hostile prejudice.”
Civil rights activists have long complained that the FBI numbers are too low. They argue that local police forces are not trained enough to detect hate crimes and often lack the motivation or resources to investigate allegations of hate crimes. Another challenge is that victims of hate crimes do not always report to the police.
“The data doesn’t have to be perfect,” Levin said. “But when it’s so incomplete, it becomes an obstacle because the average American looks at it and says, ‘Oh, OK, hate crime has gone down.’
https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-12-12/fbis-latest-hate-crimes-report-missing-crucial-data-from-california-new-york-and-florida FBI’s latest hate crimes report missing crucial data from California, New York and Florida