MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Responding to the just-released FBI 2020 Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is calling for the Biden administration and Congress to take stronger action to improve hate crime reporting and response. For the third year in a row, the number of police agencies participating in the FBI’s annual report declined, with thousands of departments either not reporting any data to the FBI or affirmatively reporting zero (0) hate crimes – including almost 80 departments in cities over 100,000 in population. Despite such obviously incomplete reporting, the FBI documented 7,759 hate crimes, a 6% increase over 2019 figures and the highest number reported since 2008.
Southern Poverty Law Center President and CEO Margaret Huang issued the following statement:
The annual FBI report is the most important, comprehensive snapshot of hate violence in America, but, after 30 years of consistent, significant underreporting by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials, it’s time for stronger, more concerted actions – more carrots and more sticks. Data drives policy. We cannot address what we are not measuring accurately.
Congress must make hate crime prevention initiatives and credible reporting by all law enforcement agencies a condition precedent to receiving federal funds. We cannot outlaw hate, but we must do more to support victims of hate violence by providing funding for community-centered anti-racism programs and effective restorative justice prevention initiatives.
The impact of these crimes on individuals and communities can never be reduced to mere statistics. Behind every one of the 7,759 reported crimes is a victim of violence, intimidation, or vandalism targeted for no other reason than their race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Bias-motivated crimes tear at the fabric of our communities and cause members of targeted groups to fear for their safety every day. Failure to address these unique crimes could cause an isolated incident to explode into widespread community tension. More comprehensive data collection will also help allocate police resources and personnel – preventing crimes and reassuring victims.
The 2020 FBI hate crime report documented a 25% increase in race-based hate violence, including a 43% increase in crimes targeting Blacks and a 53% increase in anti-Asian American/Pacific Islanders crimes. The report also documented a 19% increase in crimes against individuals on the basis of their gender identity, following a 18% increase in these crimes in 2019.
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. Currently, law enforcement agencies are not required by law to report hate crime data to the FBI. And often, because of inadequate training or a lack of trust between law enforcement and the communities they police, many hate crimes go unreported.