The FBI reports a drop in hate crimes, but there are doubts about the data

WASHINGTON — Federal hate crime statistics declined in 2021, but the statistics are deeply misleading as numerous police departments across the country, including in New York City and most cities in California, failed to report data.

Last year, 7,262 hate crimes were reported, compared to 8,263 in 2020, the FBI reported Monday.

Yet only about two-thirds of local authorities, 11,883 out of 18,812 authorities, reported hate crimes in the past year, compared with more than 90 percent the year before.

Justice Department officials warned that the report does not provide a complete or even particularly accurate account of hate crimes, defined as attacks based on a victim’s race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender or gender identification, across the country to be triggered.

The reason for the apparent undercounting, officials said, was a new crime data portal, the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which many local law enforcement agencies were struggling to integrate into their existing networks.

Hundreds of departments that have not transitioned to the new system have been unable to provide hate crime statistics to the FBI, Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement accompanying the report.

“Several of the country’s largest law enforcement agencies, as well as some states, did not make the transition” to the system in time to meet the reporting deadline, she added. However, she described it as a one-off mistake and said most of those agencies were expected to participate when the 2022 numbers were released next year.

Groups like the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors anti-Semitic violence and speech, have reported significant increases in hate crimes in recent years.

A separate survey A study conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, a research institute based at California State University, San Bernardino, found hate crimes increased by 15 to 25 percent between 2020 and 2021 in 52 jurisdictions that reported more comprehensive data to have. The steepest increases have been in attacks on Asian Americans, said the center’s director, Brian H. Levin.

Some states that had submitted incomplete data to the FBI had already released preliminary estimates showing significant increases in hate crimes. California, for example, reported just 72 hate crimes to the federal government for 2021, even though the attorney general’s office previously logged that number as 1,763.

“These new numbers are not only incomplete,” Levin said in an interview, “but give the false impression that things are getting better.”

Margaret Huang, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group based in Alabama, said the lack of complete data is disadvantageous.

“Accurate, comprehensive national data is an essential part of addressing root causes, designing prevention strategies, and providing victims and communities with the support they need,” she said. The FBI reports a drop in hate crimes, but there are doubts about the data

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