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Police need to be mandated to report hate crimes to FBI, civil rights group says

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ADL Media
ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map indicating incidents of hate, extremism, antisemitism and terrorism in Connecticut in 2022. Most common hate crimes in the state were antisemitic incidents (green) and white supremacist propaganda (light blue). Bubbles are sized based on the number of incidents.

Police across the U.S. report incidents of hate crimes to the FBI each year. The latest data from 2021 shows there was a 22% decrease in the number of participating law enforcement agencies — the lowest in two decades.

The Anti-Defamation League now wants Congress to make it mandatory for state and local law enforcement agencies that receive federal funding to participate in the FBI’s hate crime data collection efforts.

WSHU’s Eric Warner spoke with Stacey Sobel, the group’s Connecticut regional director.

WSHU: Stacey, Connecticut saw a slight decrease in reported hate crimes in 2021 compared to 2020, according to the FBI’s hate crime data. Can you explain why this is?

SS: Well, while Connecticut had a strong participation in the FBI hate crime reporting, it’s important to note that many jurisdictions, many major jurisdictions across the U.S. failed to participate. And so, the numbers really do not accurately reflect the number of hate crimes.

WSHU: How does the FBI typically collect hate crime data?

SS: It’s voluntarily reported to them but this is the first year that a new reporting system has been officially transferred to the more modernized reporting system (NIBRS). And that resulted in the sharp 22% decrease in the number of agencies that participated in reporting. It was actually the smallest number of participating agencies in the last two decades.

WSHU: How does the way we interpret this data change based on the participation of law enforcement agencies?

SS: So, given the extremely significant gaps in hate crime data for 2021, it’s important to exercise serious caution in drawing conclusions about the specific number of hate crimes at a national level. We know anecdotally I can tell you that ADL Connecticut has received over twice as many reports of hate incidents than we had last year. Now, those incidents are different than hate crimes but we have had reported to us over twice as many hate incidents as last year.

WSHU: What does the data tell us is the most common type of hate crime reported in Connecticut, and across the U.S.? Does this reflect what’s actually happening?

SS: As in every year since 1991, reported race-based hate crimes are the most numerous, comprising 61.6% of hate crimes reported by participating jurisdictions last year. And consistent with patterns every year for the last three decades, nearly half of those reported race-based hate crimes were anti-Black hate crimes. Religion-based hate crimes were the third most numerous category and they comprised 13.8% of the hate crimes reported last year and anti-Jewish hate crimes are still the most numerous in this category comprising 32% of all religion-based hate crimes. The number of reported anti-AAPI hate crimes in 2021 was nonetheless, even with the underreporting, the highest number on record at any point over the past two decades.

WSHU: How well does Connecticut participate in comparison to other states?

SS: Connecticut appears to have had very strong participation in FBI hate crime reporting in 2021 and in both 2020 and 2021, 107 Connecticut jurisdictions participated in hate crime reporting.

WSHU: Why are we seeing this crime data collection practice disappearing over the years?

SS: I couldn’t guess why but I will just say how really important it is that when an individual is targeted by a hate crime, it harms an entire community. Because data drives policy we need to have a complete picture of the problem with all reporting jurisdictions participating and accurate reporting also sends the message that hate crime incidents are taken seriously and that there are mechanisms in place to support those who are targeted. This can help increase the likelihood that members of marginalized communities will come forward to report when they’ve been a victim of a hate crime. As a nation we’re grappling with the meaning of justice for Black communities, communities of color, Indigenous communities, AAPI communities, religious minorities, LGBTQ communities, and people with disabilities. So we really need to ensure that countering and preventing hate crimes is not only a top priority, but also is approached in a way that prioritizes the voices and the needs of those communities disproportionately impacted.

WSHU: Your group is calling for Congress to mandate participation in the FBI hate crime collection process. Do you think Congress would be on board to connect this to the federal funding law enforcement receives?

SS: I don’t know but our hope is that — I think everyone across this nation will agree that hate has increased in the last decade and especially in the last five years. I believe that elected officials are aware of that as well. It’s been a five-year process to transition to the NIBRS system and so maybe it’s taking some time for some jurisdictions to get onboard with it. But we do not believe that the year’s data reflects the lack of prioritizing combating hate crimes by the Biden administration. To the contrary, we welcome the President signing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and the Emmett Till Antilynching Act as well as the White House’s United We Stand Summit to prevent and address hate motivated violence across the country.

The Anti-Defamation League encourages all members of the community to report online any hate incidents they witness and to local law enforcement.

Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.