Incomplete Data Thwarts Efforts to Address Nation’s Hate Crime Problem
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Southern Poverty Law Center’s President and CEO Margaret Huang issued the following statement responding to the FBI 2021 Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report released today. While underreporting of hate crimes to the FBI has been an ongoing problem, about which SPLC has consistently raised the alarm, the failure of state and local jurisdictions to report data is even worse in this year’s report. More than a third of the nation’s 18,000 federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies failed to report any data to the FBI – 3,300 fewer than in 2020.
This past reporting year was the first year the FBI required all agencies to report all crime, including hate crimes, through its National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Although the FBI provided technical assistance and funding to the new requirement, many jurisdictions were either unable or unwilling to report through the new system. The result is dramatically incomplete reporting, lacking any data from many major population centers including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Phoenix and, essentially, the entire states of Florida and California.
“While the FBI’s annual Hate Crime report has been the nation’s best available snapshot of hate violence in America, this year’s data is woefully incomplete, inaccurate and simply cannot be trusted – certainly not to compare to previous years. Victims and communities affected by hate crimes deserve better.
“The failure of thousands of police agencies across the country to participate in this report is devastating for the individuals and communities harmed by these crimes and to our ability to understand and prevent them. Accurate, comprehensive national data is integral to addressing the root causes, designing prevention strategies, and providing the needed support to victims and communities.
“There may be a temptation to draw conclusions from this woefully incomplete and flawed report about the rate of reported hate crimes, especially those targeting Black and AAPI communities, Sikhs and LGBTQ people. But comparing this piecemeal national data to previous years would be wrong. This first NIBRS reporting year data is simply too unreliable.
“We cannot outlaw hate, but we can do more to support victims of hate violence by ensuring they are heard and to confront the problem by measuring it accurately. As the transition to NIBRS continues, SPLC and our coalition partners will be urging the Justice Department and FBI to focus attention and resources on community-based prevention and response strategies. And, until legislation requiring hate crime reporting can be enacted, federal funds to law enforcement agencies should be conditioned on credible HCSA reporting or meaningful community hate crime prevention and awareness initiatives.
“We can and must do better.”
The HCSA, enacted in 1990, requires the U.S. Department of Justice to publish an annual report on the number of hate crimes documented by the nation’s more than 18,000 federal, state, city, university, and tribal law enforcement agencies. This report provides data on the full range of hate crimes – race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity – aggregated by states, cities, counties, and colleges and universities. The FBI includes data from all police agencies that either report one or more hate crimes or affirmatively report zero (0) hate crimes. Agencies that do not report any data are not listed.
Until this year, despite incomplete and inconsistent data reporting by these agencies, this report was the most important, most comprehensive national snapshot of hate violence in America.
SPLC: “Hate crime laws, Explained”: https://www.splcenter.org/news/2022/09/07/hate-crime-laws-timeline
United We Stand: SPLC outlines policy recommendations for national summit to fight hate and extremism: https://www.splcenter.org/news/2022/09/15/united-we-stand-splc-outlines-...
White House United We Stand Summit: https://unitedwestand.gov
SPLC-led coalition letter urging funding for United We Stand commitments in the FY24 budget: https://www.splcactionfund.org/sites/default/files/letter-omb-director-s...