A recent report from the FBI, released on Monday, indicates that 2019 saw the sharpest rise in hate crimes in over ten years. The FBI has been collecting data about racially-motivated killings since the early 1990s. 2019 saw nearly 200 more incidents of hate-related violence than 2018.
In 2019, the FBI recorded 7,314 incidents of hate crimes, while in 2018, that number was recorded at 7,120. The highest number on record comes from 2008 when the FBI recorded some 7,783 hate crimes. The 2019 numbers included the killing of 22 people in a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. The FBI has characterized this event as an attempt by the assailant to scare Latino people away from the United States.
Law enforcement professionals have noted that some of the increase in the numbers is due to better overall reporting by local police. However, few argued that hate crimes aren’t on the rise. Even suboptimal reporting wouldn’t account for the uptick in hate crimes over the past four years. The FBI reported 953 cases of religion-based hate crimes, with Jewish people being the most targeted of the cases reported.
Likewise, cases of hate crimes against Latino people were up to 527 in 2019, from 485 in 2018. Crimes against people based on sexuality were stable across the year. There was one less reported in 2019 than in 2018. Crimes against gay men were more common in 2019. Hate crimes against African Americans were actually down in 2019, making it the category that saw smaller numbers compared to the previous year.
Not all law enforcement agencies actually report hate crimes to the FBI. Of the 15,000 agencies across the country that report numbers to the FBI, only just over 2,000 reported any hate crimes. This has led to organizations like the Anti-Defamation League calling on Congress to enact more robust laws around reporting hate crimes. A push was made to enforce laws that make such crimes more punishing for the perpetrators.
As for why the crimes are on the rise, few law enforcement agencies are in agreement about why. They are unsure why these numbers are climbing. Activists with groups like the ADL and the Southern Poverty Law Center have expressed concern that these crimes aren’t being taken seriously enough. In response to the news, SPLC president Margaret Huang stated, “The FBI’s report is another reminder that we have much work to do to address hate in America.”