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The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated October Hate Crimes Awareness Month, a time each year to reflect on the large and growing problem of vandalism, intimidation and violence driven by bias toward those of another race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.
The latest FBI report on hate crimes in America demonstrates the enormity of the problem, even as it sheds light on how incomplete the data on such crimes remains and the urgency of gathering more and better information.
This week, a by-the-numbers look at a record-breaking year in hate crimes in America and the flawed and underutilized system we have for quantifying them.
(Sources and images: FBI Statistics on Hate Crimes in America for 2022 from the bureau’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, The 2021 U.S. Department of Justice Special Report on Hate Crime Victimization 2005-2019, date from the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer and the 2021 U.S. Department of Justice Hate Crimes Fact Sheet for North Carolina.)
33 – Years the FBI has been tracking hate crimes in America.
In 1990, Congress passed the Hate Crimes Statistic Act, which requires the U.S. Attorney General to collect data on “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” Those categories have since been expanded, but the work has always been handled by the FBI and its Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
Though most U.S. states have hate crime laws on the books in some form, they vary widely. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, laws like the one in North Carolina do not cover disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. Attempts in recent years to expand state law to include those classes have failed to get traction in the North Carolina General Assembly.
11,288 – Single-bias hate crime incidents (motivated by only one category of prejudice) recorded by the FBI in 2022 — the highest number ever recorded by the bureau. It’s up 7% over 2021, the previous highest recorded year.
This record number comes despite a falling number of state level law enforcement agencies actually reporting. According to the Department of Justice, 2021 was the first year crime statistics were reported entirely through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). With the change, law enforcement participation fell sharply. That makes the reliability of statistics questionable in states and areas of states with low law enforcement participation. The department estimates the number of hate crimes actually committed nationwide to be closer to 250,000.
The reliability of the data that was reported is also questionable, with 79% of reporting agencies across the country reporting zero hate crimes. That includes dozens of agencies in cities with populations of more than 100,000.
The Department of Justice reports that in 2021, 387 of North Carolina’s 531 law enforcement agencies provided hate crime data, about 73%.
14,631– number of law enforcement agencies across the country involved in reporting in 2022
13,278 – number of victims of hate crimes recorded by the FBI in 2022
346 – reported incidents involving more than one category of bias, involving 433 victims
59.1% – percentage of victims who were the target of hate crimes based on race/ethnicity/ancestry, by far the largest category. That’s been the case since 1991.
17.3% – share of victims who were the target of hate crimes based on religion
1,124 – number of hate crimes directed at Jewish people or institutions. That’s the highest number recorded by the FBI since 1993.
17.2% – share of victims who were the target of hate crimes based on sexual orientation
1,947 – number of hate crimes directed at people because of sexual orientation – the highest number the FBI has ever recorded
4% – percentage of victims who were the target of hate crimes based on gender identity
469 – number of hate crimes directed at people because of gender identity, the highest number the FBI has recorded since adding that data category in 2013
1.5% – share of victims who were the target of hate crimes based on disability
0.9% – percentage of victims who were the target of hate crimes based on gender
290 – number of hate crimes reported in North Carolina in 2021, the last year for which state level data is available through the U.S. Department of Justice. That was up dramatically from the 186 reported in 2020 and 211 in 2019. The department advises that both incidents and reporting were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
180 – number of those North Carolina hate crimes that were race/ethnicity/ancestry based in 2021
The Southern Poverty Law Center is urging law enforcement agencies to renew their commitment to reporting, as is the International Association of Police Chiefs.
“Improved data collection will require outreach and expanded networking and communication with targeted communities, as well as more training for law enforcement personnel in how to identify, report and respond to hate violence,” wrote Michael Liberman, senior policy council for hate and extremism with the SPLC, in a recent report on this year’s data. “If marginalized or targeted community members – including immigrants, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ community members, Muslims, Arabs, Middle Easterners, South Asians and people with limited language proficiency – cannot report hate crimes, or do not feel safe reporting, law enforcement cannot effectively address them, thereby jeopardizing the safety of all.”
Read the full FBI report on 2022 Hate Crime Statistics here.
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