Dec 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

FBI: Hate crimes dropped in 2021 but key data missing

Photo of the FBI seal

Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Editor's note: New data caused the FBI to release a supplemental report in March 2023 that showed hate crimes actually jumped in 2021. Read the story with the updated data here.

A new report from the FBI shows hate crimes in the U.S. dropped slightly in 2021, but the figures were likely far lower than reality due to a significant decline in law enforcement participation.

Why it matters: The shift to a new reporting system led to some of the country's biggest police departments failing to report hate crime numbers for last year, the FBI said Monday. The Department of Justice has previously warned that fewer police departments are submitting data, which experts say makes it harder to analyze and address crime trends.

By the numbers: Hate crimes reported to the FBI decreased from 8,263 in 2020 to 7,262 in 2021, according to the FBI's latest report.

  • Roughly 64% of victims were targeted because of their race, ethnicity, or ancestry, the FBI said.
  • Around 15% of reported incidents were linked to bias against a person's sexual orientation, while approximately 13% were linked to a religious bias.
  • Anti-Black or African American incidents remain the most common.
  • About 55% of all offenders were white.

Of note: Though overall numbers fell, the FBI recorded a 9% uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes and a 35% increase in anti-LGBTQ crimes.

The big picture: The latest report marks the first time annual hate crime statistics are reported entirely through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which collects more detailed data for each incident compared to the previous system, the FBI said.

  • "Several of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, as well as some states, did not make the transition [...] in time to submit data prior to the reporting deadline, and are not included in the 2021 reported totals," the DOJ said in a statement Monday.
  • The FBI says 11,883 of 18,812 of law enforcement agencies — or roughly 63% — reported crime data using NIBRS for 2021 despite receiving over $160 million in federal funding to help with the transition since the switch to NIBRS was announced in 2015.
  • An Axios Local analysis in June found that nearly 40% of law enforcement agencies nationwide did not report their 2021 data to the FBI. Reporting is voluntary for state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies but mandatory for federal agencies.

Worth noting: The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino reported this year a 21% increase in hate crimes from 2020 — and a total of 8,896 incidents in 2021 — based on data from a survey of 18 states and Washington D.C.

Don't forget: The 2020 fiscal year saw the highest number of hate crimes recorded since 2001.

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