Rachel Treisman, National Public Radio, November 12, 2019
While the number of reported hate crimes dipped slightly in 2018, violence against individuals rose to a 16-year high, according to numbers released Tuesday by the FBI.
The FBI’s annual tally counted 7,120 hate crimes reported last year, 55 fewer than the year before. The main concern for extremism trackers, however, is the rising level of violence — the report showed an increase in the number of “crimes against persons,” such as intimidation, assault and homicide.
“We’re seeing a leaner and meaner type of hate crime going on,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino. “Homicides were up and crimes against persons were up and that’s an important thing to look at.”
Hate crimes targeting people accounted for 61% of all hate crimes in 2018, according to Levin, who is co-author of a report released Tuesday that analyzes law enforcement data. The FBI recorded 24 murders classified as hate crimes in 2018, up from 15 in 2017.
Other notable findings include:
- In hate crimes fueled by racism, African Americans continue to be the most frequently targeted, though anti-black incidents overall fell to a record low share of all hate crime in 2018.
- There was a mixed picture for religious minorities: Anti-Muslim incidents decreased for the second year in a row, but still make up nearly 15% of religiously motivated acts. Anti-Sikh attacks tripled between 2017 and 2018.
- Anti-Semitic homicides in the U.S. reached their highest level ever as a result of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people in October 2018.
- Latinos continued to experience an increase in racially motivated incidents. Levin, the researcher, said such incidents rose 13% over one year and 48% over five years.
- The LGBTQ community also faced bias-motivated attacks in 2018. Incidents targeting gay males increased by nearly 7%, and anti-transgender hate crimes rose nearly 34%.
- Anti-Latino, anti-gay, anti-Asian, anti-disability, anti-transgender, anti-Sikh and anti-white hate crimes increased in 2018.
- Crimes against property, like vandalism and robbery, decreased by 19% from 2017 to 2018.
The FBI report relies on data collected from state, tribal, local and federal law enforcement agencies. In 2018, more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program, though a little more than 2,000 agencies reported hate crime incidents. The number of participating agencies decreased by less than 1%, which Levin said corresponds with the drop in incidents.
Stacey Hervey, a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver who studies extremism and hate crimes, said it is important to examine individual state records because their agencies have different hate crime laws and reporting measures.
Hervey said the increase in crimes against persons might be a sign that people are more willing to take their hatred to violent levels.
“That might be police departments are becoming more aware, but it also could be people are feeling much more comfortable in this climate to take action,” she said.
Levin’s report also notes that the number of false hate crime reports in the U.S. fell from 28 in 2017 to 11 in 2018, and most last year were attributed to college students and teenagers.