Nov 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

FBI: Hate crime murders hit record high in 2019

Photo of people holding 23 crosses in honor of those who died during the El Paso shooting in 2019

In August, the first anniversary of the deadliest attack against Hispanics in modern U.S. history, people in El Paso, Texas held memorial events to honor the 23 who died. Photo: Mario Tama via Getty

The number of hate crime murders hit a record high in 2019, while overall hate crime incidents rose by nearly 3% last year, according to the FBI's annual hate crime report, published on Monday.

The big picture: The data coincides with a growing number of white nationalist hate groups, which rose by 55% between 2017 and 2019, per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) watchdog group.

  • “Racially and ethnically motivated violent extremists — specifically white supremacist extremists — will remain the most persistent and lethal threat in the Homeland," the Department of Homeland Security said in October.

By the numbers: There were 7,314 reported hate crimes in 2019, up from 7,120 the year before. Of 7,103 single-bias incidents — where one or more offenses are motivated by the same bias — reported last year:

  • 55.8% were prompted by race, ethnicity or ancestry bias.
    • Nearly half (48.4%) of race-motivated hate crimes were due to anti-Black bias.
    • About 14.1% of race-motivated crimes were anti-Hispanic and 4.3% anti-Asian.
  • 21.4% were motivated by religious bias
    • There were 953 reports of crimes targeting Jewish people and institutions last year, up about 12% since 2018.
  • 16.8% were prompted by sexual-orientation bias
  • 2.8% were motivated by gender-identity bias.
  • 2.2% were motivated by disability bias.
  • 1% were motivated by gender bias.
  • More than half of known offenders of all reported hate crimes were white.

A record 51 people were killed in hate motivated incidents last year, including 22 people killed in a shooting that targeted Mexicans at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

  • The previous record was set in 2018, when 24 people were killed in hate-motivated incidents. (The FBI began collecting data in the 1990s.)

Worth noting: The FBI report is compiled through voluntary reporting by law enforcement agencies. Underreporting remains an issue, so the data is likely incomplete. Lack of trust between police and the community also affects data aggregation.

  • Of about 15,000 participating law enforcement agencies, only 2,175 reported hate crime data to the FBI.
  • U.S. watchdog groups, including the SPLC and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), on Monday called the federal government to improve data collection and reporting of hate crimes.

What they’re saying: “These racist ideas are not a political anomaly but rather the most extreme outgrowth of a white supremacist political culture,” the SPLC said on Monday.

  • “When one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it hurts the whole community—that’s why people are feeling vulnerable and afraid,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

Go deeper: Read the report.

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