New FBI Hate Crime Data: Significant Drop, But Problem Persists in the United States

New York City – The Federal Bureau of Investigation today released a report for the year 2009, showing a decrease in the number of hate crimes across most categories of victim groups. Human Rights First states the findings represent a positive sign, yet the data still speaks to the need for implementation of laws and policies designed to combat bias-motivated attacks. Reported hate crime incidents in the United States decreased almost 18 percent, from 7,783 reported incidents in 2008 to 6,604 in 2009. The number of incidents across most categories similarly decreased, although the number of anti-Muslim attacks increased from 105 in 2008 to 107 in 2009. The percentage of incidents overall motivated by sexual orientation bias increased to 18.5 percent (up from 16.7 percent in 2008). Of the offenses motivated by religious bias, 70.1 percent were anti-Jewish (up from 65.7 percent in 2008) and 9.3 percent anti-Muslim (up from 7.7 percent in 2008). The percentage of incidents targeting individuals (as opposed to property) also increased slightly from 60.4 percent in 2008 to 61.5 percent in 2009. There were 8 murders in 2009, up from 7 in 2008. “While we welcome the decreases in overall numbers in 2009, the fact that there were still over eight thousand victims of hate crime remains disturbing,” said Human Rights First’s Paul LeGendre. “Similar and more recent incidents from 2010 have etched in our memory the brutality of these crimes. In New York City alone, an anti-Muslim attack on a New York City cab driver and the brutal beating and torture of a gay man in the Bronx were just two of many widely reported hate crimes that have shocked the nation.” While the FBI statistics released today provide the clearest picture available of the incidence of hate crime in the United States, it is likely that many incidents go unrecorded by law enforcement. Despite a steady increase in the number of agencies that participate in the hate crime data collection program (14,422, up 5.1 percent from 13,690 in 2008), far fewer agencies (2,034, down 5.5 percent from 2,145 in 2008), actually reported any hate crimes in their jurisdiction. Nearly four thousand police jurisdictions still do not participate in the voluntary program. One important step going forward would be for the Department of Justice to take steps to enhance hate crime reporting by local jurisdictions, working with agencies that have not participated, have underrecorded, or have reported zero hate crimes in the past. The underreporting of hate crimes to law enforcement agencies also remains a problem. “We must keep in mind that underreporting presents a challenge in terms of our ability to see the full extent of the problem and to ensure that offenders are brought to justice,” LeGendre noted. “Community outreach and efforts to address victims’ mistrust of law enforcement can help to address the challenges underreporting creates.” Human Rights First’s reporting shows hate crime on the rise in many parts of Europe, the former Soviet Union, and elsewhere across the globe. The New York-based rights group looks at hate crime as a human rights concern that governments need to take more seriously. Earlier this month, the group released a report highlighting the failure of many governments with the 56-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to implement a range of political commitments to combat hate crime. “Hate crime is a global problem. The U.S., with its long history of addressing hate crime and many good practices to share, should lead global efforts to respond to this serious human rights concern,” concluded LeGendre. “In order to do that effectively, it is vital to continue to make progress on curtailing hate crime at home.”

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Published on November 22, 2010

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