While the FBI reports hate crimes based on voluntary reporting by law enforcement agencies (a database which is rife with issues) around the country, the most recent study by the US Department of Justice based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (a survey of victims of crime) continues to shed more light about the nature of hate crimes in the United States.
According to the new report issued by the Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, a quarter of a million Americans are victims of hate crimes each year, and over half are not reported to law enforcement.
While the average number of hate crimes per year has remained steady, the proportion of those based on religion has doubled in the period 2007 through 2011 compared to 2003 to 2006.
The percentage of hate crimes motivated by religious bias more than doubled between 2003-06 and 2007-11 (from 10% to 21%), while the percentage motivated by racial bias dropped slightly (from 63% to 54%).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics study also reveals that in the period 2007 to 2011:
- The proportion of violent hate crimes of all violent crimes has increased (from 3% to 4%).
- 92% of hate crime victimizations are violent assaults.
- A quarter of violent hate crimes have involved a weapon, which is an increase from the previous period.
- About a third of hate crimes occurred near the victim’s home, a quarter in public places, and almost 20% at schools.
One of the most glaring conclusions based on this study is the growing under-reporting of hate crimes by victims to law enforcement. As discussed in a recent article in the New Pittsburgh Courier, victims are increasingly under the belief that reporting these crimes to law enforcement is futile.
There was an increase in the percentage of victims of violent hate crimes who didn’t report the crime because they believed the police could not or would not help, from 14 percent in 2003-06 to 24 percent in 2007-11, the bureau said.
Part of that sense of futility may lay in the fact that hate crimes are often difficult to prove or prosecute as such.
And, as we have seen a dramatic proliferation of extremist and hate groups in the United States, the trends around increasing hate crime and decreased reporting revealed in this study highlight the need for more attention by our nation’s law enforcement agencies towards bias crime, the type of crime which continues to plague the Sikh American community in particular. Recent attacks on Sikhs, including the drive-by (and yet, unsolved) killing of two Sikh grandfathers in Sacramento, California in 2011, the mass shooting of six Sikhs in Oak Creek, Wisconsin last August, and the February shooting of a Sikh in Port Orange, Florida, whose attacker(s) is or are still at large, have not elicited an increased effort by law enforcement to address this type of violence.
It is also interesting to contrast the Department of Justice statistics with that of the FBI, whose Hate Crimes Statistics report indicates a rate of hate crimes many orders of magnitude lower. In contrast to the 250,000 crimes reported by the Department of Justice, the FBI’s statistics report less than 7,000 per year. There is a clear data deficiency in the FBI’s reporting.
While it has appeared that law enforcement agencies have not dedicated enough attention or resources to the issue of hate crimes, it is hoped that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will take at least a preliminary step to address its reporting deficiencies. To that end, over two dozen US Senators and over 100 US Representatives have now reiterated the request that the FBI more accurately reports hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs. As was testified in a Congressional committee meeting last week, the FBI has indicated that this issue will be addressed in June.