On Monday, August 30, 2021, the FBI released their 2020 Hate Crime Statistics report. Over 15,000 law enforcement agencies submitted reports involving 7,759 criminal incidents motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity. The report confirmed what grassroots and community organizations already knew: that hate is becoming more vocal, visible, and violent. The FBI’s initial report showed the highest number of hate crimes since 2008, even though fewer law enforcement agencies reported hate crime statistics to the FBI than in previous years.
Inaccuracies in Reporting Are Part of a Bigger Problem
But new developments show that the initial reports didn’t tell the whole story. Originally, the state of Ohio reported just 34 hate crimes, less than 10 percent of the previous year, which state officials now attribute to a technical glitch. As of September 10, the state is now showing that 580 hate crimes were reported last year, bringing up the nationwide total to 8,305, the highest levels since 2001. This situation is hardly unique. The misreporting or failure to report hate crimes is not an isolated problem. It has consistently made it difficult for officials to fully understand the frequency and scope of hate-based violence.
To Address Hate-based Violence, Accurate Data is Essential
Accurate data is essential in providing law enforcement and targeted communities with the information they need to respond to the growing threat of hate crime. But due to persistent underreporting by law enforcement agencies, FBI statistics only show a fraction of the larger picture. That is why Interfaith Alliance joined with our coalition partners to urge bipartisan support for the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, a bill that promoted accurate data reporting. On April 22, 2021, the NO HATE Act was passed as an amendment to the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, a much needed step to support victims of hate crimes, their communities, and authorities.
Legislation is only the First Step Towards Reform
Even though the bill’s passage was an important step towards reform, it was only the first of many more needed to improve hate crime reporting. Without the full and speedy implementation of the bill’s provisions, the underlying factors that contribute to inaccurate reporting will remain unaddressed. On March 30, 2021, Attorney General layed out necessary actions to combat hate crimes, building on existing efforts and maximizing the impact of Department resources. However this most recent hate crime report has only underscored the need to move quickly. These sentiments were expressed in a letter, sent to the Justice Department by Sen. Hirono and Rep. Meng, praising initial efforts while urging the Justice Department to do more to fully implement the bill’s provisions.
Legislation must be coupled with meaningful action by the Justice Department. We join Sen. Hirono and Rep. Meng in applauding the Justice Department’s past efforts to combat hate, while urging them to quickly and efficiently implement the provisions of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. In doing so, the Justice Department can help give stakeholders the resources and attention they need to keep our communities safe.
Learn about Interfaith Alliance’s efforts to combat hate and discrimination.