New FBI Data Show Hate Crimes Spiked in 2021, Reaching Highest Level in Decades

Lorenz Duchamps
By Lorenz Duchamps
March 14, 2023US News
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New FBI Data Show Hate Crimes Spiked in 2021, Reaching Highest Level in Decades
A seal reading "Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigation" is displayed on the J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington on Aug. 9, 2022. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Hate crimes in the United States have jumped to an alarming level in 2021, largely driven by crimes based on race and ethnicity, according to a supplemental report released by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.

FBI data released on Monday show the total reported hate crime incidents increased from 8,120 in 2020 to 9,065 in 2021—an increase of 11.6 percent.

The report noted that 12,411 individuals became victims of hate crimes in 2021—with roughly 65 percent reportedly targeted because of their race or ethnicity, while nearly 16 percent were targeted for their sexual orientation and 14 percent for their religion.

About half of the religion cases targeted Jewish people, a finding that comes amid rising anti-Semitism, said Jill Garvey, chief of staff at the Western States Center.

The increase in hate crimes marks a reversal of an incomplete report the FBI released in December last year, which initially appeared to show a slight drop in reported cases. However, the agency warned at the time that the figures were likely off because some of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies failed to submit crucial data to the new National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

The data shortfall in the previous report was largely due to changes in how police must report their data to the FBI. To ensure a more complete picture, agency officials went back and allowed large departments to report under the previous system.

Garvey said the FBI’s updated report, as well as the initial report that missed data, underscores the need for improving record-keeping on reported hate crimes.

The agency’s updated statistics now include data from large departments that was missing, and the total is the highest level in decades, said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino.

“We are in a unique and disturbing era where hate crimes overall stay elevated for longer punctuated by broken records,” Levin said.

According to the updated report, white and black Americans were the two largest groups of racially-targeted victims in 2021. In a total of 1,107 hate crime incidents, 1,341 white Americans were targeted for their race, while in 3,277 incidents, 3,906 black Americans were victimized.

The FBI also classified more than 3,800 offenses as hate crimes against property, of which roughly 71 percent were acts of destruction, damage, and vandalism. An additional 267 offenses were classified as crimes against society.

Hate crime cases are often challenging for officials to investigate because of proving that a defendant was primarily motivated by a victim’s race or religion as opposed to other factors frequently invoked, such as drug addiction or mental illness.

Responding to the FBI’s updated statistics for the year 2021, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said the top priority for the Department of Justice is “preventing, investigating, and prosecuting hate crimes.”

“The FBI’s supplemental report demonstrates our unwavering commitment to work with our state and local partners to increase reporting and provide a more complete picture of hate crimes nationwide,” Gupta said in a statement on Monday.

“We will not stop here: We are continuing to work with state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to increase the reporting of hate crime statistics to the FBI,” he added. “Hate crimes and the devastation they cause communities have no place in this country.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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