Hate crimes in U.S. rose to highest-ever level in 2021, record spike in anti-Asian hate, FBI says

Fundraiser held in March 2017 to advocate against hate crimes (Photo H.P. Singh)

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, March 13, 2023, 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, 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 national trends after the initial deadline.

“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.

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.

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.



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