The number of US hate crimes increased again in 2021, continuing an alarming rise, according to FBI data released on Monday.
A jump of nearly 12% reverses previous, incomplete FBI information that appeared to show a drop but lacked data from some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York and Los Angeles.
The hate crime statistics now include those cities along with data from other large law enforcement departments, and the total is the highest it has been in decades, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, Brian Levin, told the Associated Press.
“We are in a unique and disturbing era where hate crimes overall stay elevated for longer punctuated by broken records,” he said.
Most of the victims – 64.5% – were targeted due to their race, ethnicity or ancestry. Another 16% were targeted over their sexual orientation, and 14% of cases involved religious bias, according to the FBI report.
Intimidation and assault made up the largest portion of cases, and 18 murders were also reported to be hate crimes.
Half of the religion cases targeted Jewish people, a finding that comes amid rising antisemitism, said the chief of staff at the Western States Center, Jill Garvey.
Monday’s report also underscores the need for better record-keeping. “We’re still not getting enough data to know what the extent of the problem is,” Garvey said.
The data shortfall in the previous report released in December was largely due to changes in how police must report their data to the FBI. To ensure a more complete picture, agency officials went back and allowed large departments to report under the previous system.
“Hate crimes and the devastation they cause communities have no place in this country,” associate US attorney general Vanita Gupta said. “The justice department is committed to every tool and resource at our disposal to combat bias-motivated violence in all its forms.”
Monday’s report came four days after Axel Cox – a 24-year-old white man from Mississippi – received a prison sentence of three and a half years for burning a cross in his front yard in December 2020 in hopes of intimidating a neighboring Black family to move away. Cox had also hurled racist insults at the family, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Burning crosses are a symbol that has historically been favored by violent white supremacists, and Cox’s sentencing came after he pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime as well as a violation of the Fair Housing Act.