Aug 31, 2023 - News

Austin hate crimes jumped nearly 60% in 2022

Change in hate crimes among largest U.S. cities, 2021 to 2022
Data: Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism report; Chart: Axios Visuals

Austin saw one of the biggest jumps in hate crimes in the country last year, with a nearly 60% increase from 2021, according to a new report.

Driving the news: The city saw 46 reported hate crimes in 2022, up from 29 in 2021, according to the unpublished report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

  • In Austin, the largest increases were a rise in anti-Hispanic or Latino incidents to six, as well as a rise in anti-white incidents to three. But the city also saw an increase in incidents targeting LGBTQ+, transgender, Asian and Arab people.
  • Hate crimes against Black people and gay men remained the most common.

Why it matters: The report challenges Austin's self-image as an accepting city that has welcomed refugees, immigrants and its vibrant LGBTQ+ community.

Zoom out: Most of the nation's 10 largest cities had significant jumps in hate crimes last year, averaging a 22% increase to a record national total of 1,889 cases, Axios' Russell Contreras reports.

  • It was the second-straight year of increases in the average number of reports in the big cities.

Of note: Hate crimes are typically defined as violence stemming from victims' race, color, sexuality, religion or national origin.

What they're saying: Anti-Defamation League Austin regional director Jackie Nirenberg told Axios the findings track with what the group has seen in Austin and Texas.

  • The state had more instances of white supremacist propaganda distribution from 2021-2022 than any other, she said, and as of June 2023, "we are trending toward another record year."
  • Texas saw antisemitic incidents increase by 89% from 2021-2022, she added.

Nelson Linder, president of the Austin NAACP, told Axios he, too, has seen a rise in these incidents, which he attributes to a charged national and statewide political environment. "There's little accountability for all of this rhetoric that's a clear and present danger," he said.

  • Linder said many are afraid to go public with their stories for fear of more harassment, but "there's definitely an escalation, and it's a lot more dangerous in terms of threats."
  • He said he's been in contact with the FBI about some.
  • "The cycle has to end," he said. "We're always reacting."

Between the lines: Hate crimes have often gone unreported, Nirenberg said. "Two of the biggest hurdles are that targets of hate crimes are apprehensive to report them, and the lack of comprehensive reporting guidelines for law enforcement."

  • In fact, she said, it's possible Austin's rise in reported hate crimes could be the result of outreach efforts and the city's new reporting process.

Be smart: As part of Austin city government's new "We All Belong" initiative, residents can report hate crime incidents online.

Flashback: In early June a woman was killed in Cedar Park just outside Austin after a man called her an anti-gay slur.

  • Also in June, several parks and recreational spaces around Austin were vandalized with hate symbols, KVUE reported.

The big picture: The report reflects a 22-year trend of increasing hate crimes nationwide.

  • In 2017, the city of Austin documented just 14 hate crime incidents.

The intrigue: "A lot of people are talking about civil war and all that. That's leading to a climate where hate crimes increase," the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism's Brian Levin tells Axios.

  • Levin said hate crimes have jumped in recent decades partly because of better record keeping but also because of hate spreading quickly on social media.

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