Researchers say latest FBI statistics on hate crimes nationwide are flawed : NPR

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The Pride flag is reflected in the glasses of a white nationalist protesting at the LGBTQ+ community’s “Pride in the Park” event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on June 11, 2022.

Jim Urquhart


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Jim Urquhart

The Pride flag is reflected in the glasses of a white nationalist protesting at the LGBTQ+ community’s “Pride in the Park” event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, on June 11, 2022.

Jim Urquhart

The FBI recorded a drop in hate crimes in 2021, but the annual count may not give a true account of hate crimes in the United States as thousands of law enforcement agencies were absent from accounting.

The FBI’s annual collection of data from law enforcement agencies saw 7,262 crimes motivated by race, religion, gender or other factors last year. That’s down from 8,263 incidents in 2020. But those numbers offer misleading conclusions as they are drawn from a pool of 3,255 fewer law enforcement agencies.

Only 11,883 of 18,812 city, state, municipal and tribal law enforcement agencies across the county sent data to the FBI, down from 15,138 in 2020.

The drop in participation is due to a transition from a crime reporting system that has existed in various forms since the 1920s to a more sophisticated reporting system that captures specific details of a crime. It allows the FBI and researchers to derive deeper analysis from crime statistics. For example, FBI data in 2021 showed that approximately 80% of homicides nationwide were committed with a firearm. That type of data point would not have been possible under the previous system.

But thousands of law enforcement agencies, including some of the largest in the country like New York and Los Angeles, have lagged behind in the transition that began in 2016 to the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) the new one.

A number of police departments have found it difficult and expensive to upgrade their legacy systems, even though the Department of Justice has helped state and local agencies with more than $120 million in grants. The San Francisco Police Department said The Marshall project not planning to send FBI data until 2025.

In 2021, for the first time, the FBI accepted data exclusively from the new NIBRS system, resulting in significant gaps that researchers say make the annual report meaningless.

In a news release, the Justice Department said that “data cannot be reliably compared across years” because “several of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, as well as some states, they haven’t made the transition.” As more law enforcement agencies transition to the new system, the department said, it will be able to provide a richer and more complete picture of hate crimes across the country.

But some researchers have cast doubt on the FBI’s ability to capture the true extent of hate crimes in the United States even as more agencies are reporting their data, arguing that the issue runs deeper than adoption of new technology.

“People generally don’t report crimes to the police. And for hate crimes, many victims may not know they are the victim of a hate crime,” says Jacob Kaplan, a researcher at the School of Public and International Affairs of ‘ Princeton. “So even if 100% of the agencies reported every hate crime they had and tried to really investigate everything, they perceived a hate crime, you would still be missing a potentially extremely large number of victims.”

Law enforcement officers arrest 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front on suspicion of riot conspiracy after they were removed from a U-Haul truck near the LGBTQ+ community’s “Pride in the Park” event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in June. 11, 2022.

Jim Urquhart


hide caption

toggle caption

Jim Urquhart

Law enforcement officers arrest 31 members of the white nationalist group Patriot Front on suspicion of riot conspiracy after they were removed from a U-Haul truck near the LGBTQ+ community’s “Pride in the Park” event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in June. 11, 2022.

Jim Urquhart

The researchers cite gaps between the FBI’s hate crime statistics compared to other data sets, such as the National Crime Victimization Survey reported by the U.S. Bureau of Statistics. -Justice.

“There are 200,000 to 300,000 hate crime incidents in a given year and FBI data records less than 10,000 of them,” says Eaven Holder, who authored a peer-reviewed study examining 18-year-old both sets of data. “Estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey suggest that 40 to 50% of all hate crimes go unreported to the police.”

In some cases, there is disagreement among law enforcement agencies about what constitutes a hate crime.

“New Jersey is a pretty good example where in recent years New Jersey has reported a lot more hate crimes than the FBI has let on,” says Kaplan.

“Sometimes the FBI and the social assistance agencies don’t agree on why, the amount of bias, or they don’t agree on whether it was a hate crime,” says Kaplan.

For example, in 2021 New Jersey reported 877 incidents of anti-Black prejudice while the FBI counted 92. The FBI counted 25 incidents of anti-Jewish crimes in the same year, while New Jersey said it was there are 298.

New Jersey reported a 400% increase in bias incidents since 2015, mainly due to the increase in harassment, a category that the FBI does not include.

In some cases, gathering evidence to prove the bias behind a crime may require more investigative resources than investigating the crime itself.

“For a hate crime to be reported, there needs to be evidence of prejudice playing at least a small part in the crime,” notes Kaplan. “And then the police need to have actual evidence, not just like, ‘I think you were a victim of a hate crime.’ They need some kind of evidence that suggests prejudice was a motivating factor.”

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