What's Behind the Spike in Hate Crimes in the US Outlined in Amended FBI Statistical Data?
The FBI is sounding the alarm over the soaring number of hate crimes in 2020, while Attorney General Merrick Garland signalled on 25 October that the Department of Justice is expediting its own report on the issue. What's behind the spike in hate crimes in the US and do the FBI's numbers correctly reflect the current state of affairs?
The FBI on Monday published updated US hate crimes statistics for fiscal year 2020 following a technical submission issue which included only partial data from Ohio in the original release in August. According to the agency, the number of hate crimes reported in FY2020 was the highest since 2001.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on 25 October that the Justice Department has recently charged over 17 people with federal hate crimes, adding that the DOJ's Civil Rights Division is preparing its own review of the issue.
Upsurge in Hate Crimes?
According to the amended
report, law enforcement agencies registered 8,263 criminal incidents and 11,129 related offences which were motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity. The FBI's original
August release listed 7,759 criminal incidents and 10,532 related offences.
The situation with underreporting is not particularly troubling as it added data from only one state, Ohio, suggests Robert J. Spitzer, distinguished service professor of political science at the State University of New York, College at Cortland. "So this is a very minor amendment in the data total", he notes.
Per Spitzer, the reported upsurge in hate crimes could partially be due to the greater awareness and willingness by victims to step forward to report, and police or prosecutors to act, while in the past hate crimes were clearly underreported. Still, he believes that hate crimes have really spiked in recent years. He cites assaults against Asian Americans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic over the belief that COVID-19 originated in China.
Actually, "there is little we can conclude about the increased numbers reported for 2020", deems Jonathan Simon, associate dean of the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Programme at the UC Berkeley School of Law.
Simon echoes Spitzer by suggesting that the greater number of hate crime reports could be triggered by growing public awareness of the problem. According to the associate dean, "identifying these crimes takes a lot of motivation by citizens and the police, we naturally expect reporting to go up in response to press coverage of the issue".
"Ironically there is probably less actual racial animus in America than ever in our past (consider the 1960s when white supremacist murders of civil rights activists were common) but far greater social awareness of it which produces its own negative effects", Simon believes.
Racial Bias and White Offenders
Meanwhile, the FBI's 2020 report outlines 8,052 single-bias incidents involving 11,126 victims with 61.8% of them being targeted because of the offenders' bias toward race, ethnicity, or ancestry. In 2019, the FBI recorded 7,103 single-bias incidents involving 8,552 total victims.
The agency draws attention to the spike in crimes against Asian Americans and African Americans. Anti-Black assaults increased 46% if compared to 2019, while Anti-Asian attacks saw a 73% jump. For comparison's sake, attacks against white people were up 16%, according to the FBI.
When it comes to "known offenders" – which means that at least some aspect of the suspect was identified – the agency says that of the 6,780 known offenders, 55.1% were white; 21.2% were "Black or African American"; the race was unknown for 15.7%, while 5.4% were of a group of multiple races. The remaining known offenders encompassed 1.1% Asians, 1% American Indians or Alaska Natives, and 0.5% Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders.
Of the 7,750 hate crime offences qualified as crimes against persons, 53.1% were for intimidation, 27.9% were for simple assault, and 17.9% were for aggravated assault, the FBI report indicates.
Earlier this year, the FBI elevated hate crimes and civil rights to top national threat priority. "Hate crimes are the top priority within the FBI's Civil Rights Programme, due to the devastating impact these types of crimes have on communities", stated FBI Associate Deputy Director Jeffrey Sallet on 30 June. "There's simply no place in this country for hate and intolerance".
Yet, some conservative observers throw the FBI's data into question wondering whether it includes numbers from the events of the summer of 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. The riots were often accompanied by arson, looting, and attacks against private and federal property as well as animus against police, white people, and, particularly, Donald Trump supporters, according to media reports and social media posts.
"You must be very, very careful with these types of statistics", says Wall Street analyst Charles Ortel.
He agrees that the number of hate crimes is likely underreported, adding that, probably, street assaults on white women and some Black-on-Asian hate crimes may be left beyond the scope of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies due to the politicisation of the racial issue starting from the 2020 BLM protests.
However, it's not the only reason why the analyst does not trust the FBI statistics: Ortel also refers to the tricky role the FBI allegedly played in the January 6th protests
The recent disclosures by Revolver News
, Tucker Carlson, and even The New York Times
about the agency's involvement in the Capitol Hill riots
indicates the FBI's apparent politicisation, according to the analyst.
"The January 6th thing is now looking more and more like it was instigated by the people close to the FBI or FBI itself", the analyst remarks, not ruling out that the agency's hate crime statistics could be part of the Biden administration's broader "domestic terrorism" agenda.
Previously, conservative and centre-right media bemoaned the federal authorities turning a blind eye to multiple crimes committed by BLM and Antifa militants in the summer of 2020.
For instance, almost half of the 96 federal cases against rioters in Portland, Oregon, were dropped, according
to The Wall Street Journal
. Kristina Wong of Breitbart cited
485 cases in Manhattan, with 222 of them dropped, while in the Bronx a whopping 73 of 118 cases were dismissed. This situation prompted Republican Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rick Scott (R-FL), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) to send a letter to AG Garland in June 2021, wondering as to how justice was served in response to the 2020 BLM protests