Hate crimes in the United States reached their highest level in more than a decade last year, as more hate-motivated murders were recorded than ever before, the FBI said on Monday.
The sharp rise in hate-motivated homicides – there were 51 last year, according to the FBI – was attributed in large part to the mass shooting in El Paso in August 2019. In that shooting, authorities say ‘A 21-year-old gunman motivated by hatred towards Latinos stormed a Walmart and killed 23 people and injured many more.
The death toll in the El Paso attack more than doubled that of the deadliest hate crime of 2018, the mass shooting targeting Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Overall, the FBI collected data on 7,314 criminal incidents motivated by bias in favor of race, ethnicity or gender identity in 2019. It was the third consecutive year that the measure exceeded 7,100 incidents and was the highest number since the FBI reported 7,783 incidents in 2008. Experts say FBI data likely underestimates the number of hate crimes in America, both because of many victims do not report incidents and local agencies are not required to report hate crime data to the FBI.
For example, last year only 2,172 agencies reported hate crime data to the FBI, out of a total of more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies across the country, according to the FBI report. (Notable omissions in data from recent years include the death of a protester in 2017 at a rally of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.)
“It is important to note that due to the nature of hate crime reporting, the FBI’s annual report vastly underestimates the actual level of hate crime in the country,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said Monday. , which tracks hate groups.
The SPLC noted that the increase in hate crimes in recent years has come as the number of white supremacist groups has increased. According to data collected by the SPLC, the number of white nationalist groups increased by 55% between 2017 and 2019.
The upsurge in hate crimes last year underscored the upward trend in bias-motivated crime during the Trump era, and harsh rhetoric against Latino immigrants was seen as motivating the shooter in the El Paso shooting. .
“Politics play a role,” said Brian Levin, professor at California State University, San Bernardino, and director of the university’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
“The president’s rhetoric has been identified in a series of attacks,” Mr. Levin added, “but furthermore, the daily hate crimes ticks of the FBI show that there is an increase after the sustained and fervent remarks of the chair that enter an online feedback loop that also ends in other speeches, both at the water fountain and on television.
The overall increase has been fueled by an increase in attacks, particularly against Hispanics and Jews. The FBI reported 953 anti-Semitic hate crimes last year, a 14% increase from the previous year and the largest since 2008, according to a report from California State University, San Bernardino, which analyzed the latest FBI report and was released Monday.
Hate crimes against Latinos increased by almost 9%, to 527 incidents last year from 485 incidents in 2018. At the same time, hate crimes against blacks fell to the lowest of all hate crimes since that this data began to be collected by the FBI. , although black people are still vastly overrepresented in statistics, according to Mr. Levin’s report. Last year, hate crimes targeting black people fell slightly, by less than 1%.
“Blacks are still the No. 1 target, at double the level they represent in the American population,” the report said.
Looking at preliminary data from 2020, Levin saw an overall drop in hate crimes, which he explained following social distancing measures and business closures from the coronavirus pandemic, except in three cities: Los Angeles, Houston and San Antonio. He also saw an increase in bias crimes this year against two groups in particular, transgender people and Asian Americans; the latter, he said, was most likely affected by the anti-Asian animosity over false claims about the pandemic.