The Washington Post

FBI: Hate crimes in the U.S. rose in 2021 to their highest level


Hate crimes in the United States rose in 2021 to the highest level since the federal government began tracking the data more than three decades ago, the FBI said Monday in a new report that also reflected a record spike in attacks targeting people of Asian descent.

States and local jurisdicti­ons reported 10,840 bias-motivated crimes, up nearly 25 percent from 2020 and significan­tly more than the previous high of 9,730 tallied in 2001.

The data showed increases in crimes targeting all major categories, including racial minorities, religious groups, and the gay and lesbian community. There were 746 attacks targeting people of Asian descent in 2021, up from 249 a year earlier and the most ever recorded in a single year.

“This is a horrifying record that is greater than what we saw in 2001,” said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino who tracks hate-crime data.

“What this establishe­s, along with our research, is that we have hit an inflection point now, in this decade, in regards to hate crimes that we haven’t seen since modern data collection began,” Levin said in an interview Monday. “The significan­ce of this is that there are now multiple years of increases.”

Levin said his center has collected data from nearly three dozen big cities that shows continued increases in hate crimes in 2022.

The FBI report came amid additional data from local jurisdicti­ons since December, when the agency released an incomplete report for 2021 hate crimes citing the difficulti­es many state and local law enforcemen­t agencies had in complying with a new federal reporting system. FBI officials told reporters on a telephone briefing Monday that they sought to obtain a more complete picture of trends after the initial deadline.

The spike in hate crimes comes as U.S. intelligen­ce officials have warned in recent years of increasing domestic threats from white nationalis­t groups and extremists. The Justice Department has begun to increase federal prosecutio­ns of hate crimes, and taken other steps to improve reporting of such crimes, including increasing access to federal portals in foreign languages and bolstering community outreach.

“Hate crimes and the devastatio­n they cause communitie­s have no place in this country,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a written statement Monday. “The Justice Department is committed to every tool and resource at our disposal to combat bias-motivated violence in all its forms.”

The data remains incomplete, as thousands of the nation’s more than 18,000 state, local and tribal law enforcemen­t agencies — most of which have fewer than 50 officers — do not report any data. In 2021, 14,859 agencies participat­ed in the FBI’S crime data reporting program, officials said. That represente­d law enforcemen­t agencies that serve about 91 percent of the U.S. population.

Criminal justice analysts said victims often do not report hate crimes, due to language barriers or distrust among marginaliz­ed population­s that police will take their reports seriously.

Civil rights groups that have tried to track hate crimes on their own say the federal numbers represent a major undercount.

For example, Stop AAPI Hate, a California-based group that began tracking hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders amid the covid-19 pandemic, has tallied more than 11,000 hate incident claims since 2020, including assaults, racial slurs and acts of discrimina­tion and prejudice, via a public reporting hotline. Those reports are largely anecdotal, however, and many are not considered criminal acts.

Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmativ­e Action and a co-founder of Stop

AAPI Hate, said in an interview Monday that the group’s data shows that harassment of Asian Americans “continues unabated.” She and other civil rights advocates have cited a public backlash against China — around the origins of the pandemic and increasing national security tensions — as contributi­ng to the hostilitie­s.

“What we are really sounding the alarms about is the continued scapegoati­ng … that has created a really hostile climate and put our communitie­s in harm’s way,” Choi said.

The FBI report showed that in 2021, attacks targeting Black victims were again the most prevalent with 3,277, up from 2,871 in 2020, followed by crimes targeting White people (up from 869 to 1,107), gay men (up from 673 to 948), Jewish people (up from 683 to 817) and people of Asian descent. Attacks involving juvenile victims rose in 2021, numbering 1,289 cases, the FBI said.

FBI officials said the agency has devoted more resources to combating hate crimes since 2020, including holding more than 300 training seminars for local law enforcemen­t agencies and 1,800 community outreach events.

“We are raising awareness of what a hate crime is … all with the idea that these events often go unreported,” an FBI official said in the background call with reporters.

 ?? SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES ?? People in New York protest for an end to anti-asian violence in 2021. The country began tracking bias-motivated attacks in 1990.
SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES People in New York protest for an end to anti-asian violence in 2021. The country began tracking bias-motivated attacks in 1990.

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