While the number of hate crime incidents is down slightly from 2017, so are the number of reporting law agencies. Murders are at a 27-year high, totalling 24, and blacks, Hispanics, Jews and Muslims are still victimised, as are LGBTQ persons.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its hate crime figures on Tuesday and report says that while crimes against property have decreased, physical assaults against individuals increased.
There were 4,571 reported hate crime incidents against persons (as opposed to property or society) in the United States in 2018. The victims were not from a single background but of various religious and ethnic ones.
The New York Times, contrasting with a decline in violent crime in the US in general, calculated that aggravated assaults were up 4 percent, simple assaults were up 15 percent, and intimidation was up 13 percent in 2018.
A former FBI crime analyst interviewed by the New York Times, James Nolan, commented that “The trends show more violence, more interpersonal violence, and I think that’s probably reliable.”
FBI’s 2018 report data indicate that the total number of hate crime incidents reported compared to 2017 is only 55 fewer in number, a year for which 7,175 hate crime incidents were reported. Yet between 2016 and 2017, there was a steep increase –– 17 percent –– in reported incidents, so a small decline does not necessarily show a downward trend, but rather, it points to a plateauing of hate incidents.
The Bureau defines a hate crime as a traditional offence such as murder, arson or vandalism but “with an added element of bias.”
The bias in question can be against “a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” The FBI is quick to point out that it does not track or prosecute hate itself, and that it is “mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”
Religious bias targets Jews, Muslims; racist/ethnic bias targets blacks, Hispanics
According to the newly released FBI data from 2018:
57.5 percent of single bias hate crime incidents were motivated by race/ethnicity/ancestry bias (4047 out of 7036), and of these, the highest targeted victim group were blacks, followed by Hispanics.
The Anti-Defamation League’s press release called the anti-Hispanic hate crimes “especially disturbing” given that they “increased 14 percent, the third straight year of increased reporting … at a time ADL and others have documented escalating anti-immigrant rhetoric and bigotry.”
The FBI reported 485 hate crimes against Hispanics in 2018, while crimes against Muslims and Arab-Americans were at their lowest since 2014 at 270. Yet as Robert McCaw, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Council of American-Islamic Relations noted, CAIR alone had recorded 1,664 hate crimes against Muslims in 2018, the New York Times said.
20.2 percent were motivated by religious bias (1419 out of 7036). Most incidents targeted Jews, followed by Muslims.
“It is unacceptable that Jews and Jewish institutions continue to be at the center of religion-based hate crime attacks,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
17 percent were motivated by sexual-orientation bias (1196 out of 7036). “Bias-motivated crimes are a real, frightening problem in the United States, and LGBTQ people continue to be targeted because of who they are,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Alphonso David.
David added that in order to address “the epidemic of violence” against LGBTQ persons and others, “we need mandatory hate crimes reporting across the country, better training for law enforcement officers to recognize bias-motivated crime and greater inclusion and equity in our communities.”
As far as other types of bias, 2.3 percent of hate crimes were motivated by disability bias (159 out of 7036), and 0.7 percent were motivated by gender bias (47 out of 7036).
2.4 percent were motivated by gender-identity bias (168 out of 7036). Hate crimes directed at transgender individuals increased by a significant 42 percent, up from 119 in 2017 to 168 in 2018.
Voluntary reporting may mean underreporting
According to FBI data “voluntarily collected and submitted by law enforcement” from around the US, there were –– from a total of 7,120 –– 7,036 single bias incidents involving 8,646 victims and 84 multiple bias incidents involving 173 victims in 2018.
CBS, quoting the ADL, in 2018 at least 85 cities whose populations exceeded 100,000 residents “did not report” any hate crimes or “reported zero” hate crimes. (The ADL keeps track of laws and reports on a map they maintain.)
Another cause of underreporting may be the number of law enforcement agencies submitting data to the FBI. In 2018, 16,039 law enforcement agencies reported hate crimes to the FBI, 110 fewer agencies than the year before.
Organisations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have pointed out that in previous years, major incidents such as the hate-propelled deaths of Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer were not even reported in the hate crime figures of the FBI.
The NAACP endorses The Jabara/Heyer “No Hate” Act and urges US citizens to support it. In their plea, they note: “The increase in the number of hate groups, their membership and hate crimes in the United States, make it clear that more research and complete date is sorely needed. The dramatic underreporting of hate crimes make it extremely difficult to know the full scope of the problem.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center has brought to attention another significant and worrisome development, noting that the number of hate groups operating across the country “rose to a record high” of 1,020 in 2018, and directly correlating it to US President Donald Trump’s campaign and time in office.
According to the civil rights organisation, it was “the fourth straight year of hate group growth” while near the end of the Obama administration there had been three consecutive years of decline.