Report: FBI Hate Crime Statistics Vastly Understate Problem

Hate Crime

The real number of hate crimes in the United States is more than 15 times higher than FBI statistics reflect, according to a stunning new government report.

Hate crime statistics published by the FBI since 1992, based on voluntary reports from law enforcement agencies around the country, have shown annual totals of about 6,000 to 10,000, depending on the year. But the new report, "Hate Crimes Reported by Victims and Police," found an average annual total of 191,000 hate crimes. That means the real level of hate crime runs between 19 and 31 times higher than the numbers that have been officially reported for almost 15 years.

"It's an astounding report," said Jack Levin, a leading hate crime expert at Northeastern University. "It's not necessarily completely accurate, but I would trust these data before I trusted the voluntary law enforcement reports to the FBI."

The revealing new report, compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and published in November, was based on an analysis of three and a half years of detailed survey data from the biannual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS raw data comes from interviews with almost 80,000 statistically representative people and is the most accurate crime survey extant.

The report, which inferred hate motivation from the words and symbols used by the offender, found that just 44% of hate crimes are reported to police. Other hate crimes don't make it into FBI statistics for an array of reasons: Police may fail to record some as hate crimes; their departments may not report hate crime statistics to state officials; and those officials may not accurately report to the FBI.

According to the new report, hate crimes involve violence far more often than other crimes. The data showed 84% of hate crimes were violent, meaning they involved a sexual attack, robbery, assault or murder. By contrast, just 23% of non-hate crimes involved violence. Other studies have suggested that hate-motivated violence, especially against LGBT people, is more extreme than other violence.

The report also showed that 56% of hate crime victims identified race as the primary factor in the crimes they reported. Ethnicity accounted for another 29% of the total. Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation were 18% of the total. Given that the best studies indicate about 3% of the American population is homosexual, that means that gays and lesbians are victimized at six times the overall rate.