An FBI annual report shows that bias-motivated killings were at a record high amid nationwide rise in hate crime in 2019.
Hate crimes in the US have risen to the highest levels in over a decade and federal officials have also recorded the highest number of hate-motivated killings since data collection began, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report released on Monday.
The FBI’s annual Hate Crimes Statistics report for 2019 says that last year 7,314 criminal incidents were reported – a three percent increase from the year before – involving over 8,500 victims. It also meant that incidents reached 7,000 for the third consecutive year, a trend not seen since 2008.
The report is compiled by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) programme, which relied on 2019 data provided by over 15,500 law enforcement agencies across the US on offences, victims, offenders and locations of hate crimes.
Of the 5,512 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons, 40 percent were for intimidation, 36.7 percent were simple assault, and 21 percent were aggravated assault. 51 cases were murders; 30 were rapes; and three offenses of human trafficking were reported. Another 41 were classified as in the category of other.
Nearly half of the record number of hate-motivated killings come from a single domestic terrorism attack: a mass shooting that targeted Mexican shoppers at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Of the 23 victims, 22 are included in the report for 2019; the last victim died later.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a “traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias”. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity”.
A breakdown of victims by types of bias shows that over 57 percent were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; over 20 percent were due to the offenders’ religious bias; over 16 percent were because of sexual-orientation bias; 2.7 percent were because of gender-identity bias; two percent for disability bias and 0.9 percent victimized because of gender bias.
Of the known offenders of these hate crimes, over 52 percent were White, and more than 23 percent were Black.
Advocacy organisations alarmed
The report was alarming to a number of advocacy organisations.
“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 for the hate-group tracking Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). “Each of these incidents represents the targeting of an individual or community for violence or vandalism because of their identity or personal characteristics.
"The 2019 increases in hate crime were far more precipitous among the most violent offenses – homicides and assaults; those directed toward certain target groups, like Jews and Latinos; and in some of the nation's largest cities," concluded a summary by the California-based Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
The FBI relies on the voluntary reporting of more than 15,000 participating law enforcement agencies across the country. Last year, 86 percent of them didn't report a single hate crime, including at least 71 cities with populations over 100,000, noted the Anti-Defamation League, the Sikh Coalition and other advocacy groups. Several activists have called for legislative action to improve data collection.
"Even as deadly hate crimes increase, fewer law enforcement agencies are electing to report data to the FBI," said Nikki Singh of the Sikh Coalition. "Especially given the dangerously divisive political climate of the past four years, we should be reckoning with the problem of hate in America – not continuing to sweep it under the rug.