Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation documented a drop in the number of hate crimes recorded across the United States of America. However, a recent report has highlighted the flaws within the federal agency’s ability to document the number of hate crimes taking place in the U.S. each year.
In 2021, the FBI documented a total of 7,262 crimes motivated by race, sexuality, gender, religion or other social factors. One year earlier, the federal agency documented 8,263 incidents of this kind. While it appears that there was a drop in the number of hate crimes taking place, further investigation reveals that the number of agencies reporting such information decreased from 2020 to 2021. Specifically, 15,138 law enforcement organizations sent data to the FBI in 2020 while only 11,883 agencies sent data in 2021.
A recent report from NPR indicates that fewer law enforcement agencies are sending data to the FBI due to changes in the reporting system used to relay this information. Over the last few years, the FBI has begun using a more detailed process known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System. The National Incident-Based Reporting System or NIBRS can capture more things than the legacy system could, such as the number of homicides caused by a firearm.
Experts in the field also point out that the FBI’s system may be flawed as a number of hate crimes go unreported.
“[There are] 200,000 to 300,000 hate crime incidents in a given year and the FBI data records less than 10,000 of them,” scholar Eaven Holder told NPR.
“Estimates from the National Crime Victimization Survey suggest that 40 to 50% of all hate crimes go unreported to police.”
Adding on, the FBI may also disagree about whether or not a crime was motivated by race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender.
In 2021, the Garden State reportedly documented 877 anti-Black incidents, but the FBI included 11% of those incidents in its end-of-year reports.
“Sometimes the FBI and the welfare agencies will disagree about why, the amount of bias, or disagree whether it was a hate crime,” Kaplan added.