Hate crimes in America dipped across the board in 2014, except in the category of anti-Muslim crimes, which rose about 14 percent over the prior year, according to FBI statistics released today. Given the barbaric Islamic State attacks in Paris last week and elsewhere recently, that latter trend seems destined to accelerate.
The reported drop in total hate crimes of almost 8 percent is probably meaningless, as several studies by the government’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in recent years have showed that the FBI numbers are vastly lower than the real level of hate crimes, making year-over-year comparisons of the totals virtually impossible. (The FBI’s reported national totals went from 5,928 in 2013 to 5,479 last year.)
However, experts have said that within the larger numbers, it is possible to get a good sense of trends. That means the rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes is very likely real, probably a reaction to reports of murders and other atrocities carried out by the Islamic State, or ISIS. Other categories of hate crime — anti-Latino, anti-black, anti-LGBT and anti-Jewish — all dropped, according to the new FBI numbers.
The actual totals of anti-Muslim hate crimes — from 135 in 2013 to 154 in 2014 — were not dramatic for a country of close to 320 million people.
But the BJS studies have found that while the FBI has reported over the last 20 years between about 6,000 and about 11,500 total hate crimes in America each year, the real annual totals in recent years has been nearly 260,000. That suggests that the real numbers are some 25 to 40 higher than the FBI totals, which in turns means the real 2014 total of anti-Muslim hate crimes could be as many as 6,000 or more.
The anti-Muslim numbers have been rising slowly but steadily since 2012. In that period, ISIS beheadings and other atrocities have pushed radical Islam into the news in a way that almost certainly has fueled anti-Muslim hatred. Given the Charlie Hebdo and other attacks in early 2015, along with the most recent Islamist slaughter in Paris, anti-Muslim hate crimes seem bound to rise again in 2015.
Other major categories of hate crime saw drops, according the new FBI statistics. Anti-black hate crimes fell from 1,856 in 2013 to 1,621 last year, the lowest number in almost 10 years. Anti-LGBT crimes dropped similarly, from 1,212 in 2013 to 1,097 in 2014. Anti-Jewish crimes went from 625 in 2013 to 609 last year (about four times the absolute number of anti-Muslim hate crimes). And anti-Latino hate crimes fell from 331 to 299, the lowest reported total in more than a decade.
Although 86 percent of the nation’s 17,985 law enforcement agencies made voluntary hate crime reports to the FBI for 2014 — one of the highest percentages in recent years — holes in the system remained glaring and obvious. Hawaii, once again, did not make any report at all. Other places reported improbably low numbers. Mississippi, for example, reported only one hate crime for the entire year, while states that are known to be much better at reporting, like California, New York and Ohio, tallied far higher and more believable totals (759, 545 and 403, respectively).
Overall, the new FBI numbers show that 47 percent of hate crimes in 2014 were motivated by race, over 20 percent by anti-LGBT animus, and approaching 19 percent by religion (within that category, Jews were the most targeted). The report also found, as in prior years, that the third most common venue for hate crimes, at almost 9 percent of the total, was on campuses of schools, colleges and universities..