The FBI’s 2021 Hate Crime Data Is More Than a Report | Jobs Recent

Editor’s Note: To understand the nature of extremism and the dangers it poses to various communities, real data on hate crimes is essential – that’s why Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act 30 years ago. Researchers have long noted that the data collected by the FBI is problematic, but this year’s report is worse than usual. Cynthia Miller-Idriss of American University breaks down the latest report, arguing that it is flawed and grossly misleading. If an inaccurate report must be given, it would be best to do so in a way that makes its many problems apparent.

Daniel Byman


The FBI released its 2021 hate crime report this week amid widespread criticism that its analysis is based on insufficient data and was hampered by a major drop in local agency reporting.

First, the report shows that there has been a decline in hate crimes, as reported crimes fell to 7,262 from a 12-year high of 8,263. But nearly 40 percent of organizations across the country failed to report any data at all in 2021 – just 11 and 18 out of 18,812 organizations. In 2020, the FBI’s national crime statistics included data received from 15,138 of 18,625 organizations. The 2021 data shows a reduction of up to 20% from what was posted last year.

Reporting hate crime statistics to the FBI is voluntary, part of an annual collection by the FBI since 1990, after Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act. This voluntary reporting dropped significantly during the 2021 transition to the FBI’s new database, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

The Justice Department has given $120 million in funding to law enforcement agencies to help them transition to the new system — but the transition is still lacking. Several states and major metropolitan areas did not report any data and therefore “are not included in the reported numbers in 2021,” the Justice Department noted this week by way of explanation. The report promised that future data collection would provide “a more complete picture of hate crimes across the country.”

That promise is small, too late for the thousands of hate criminals who are left out of the data, and for policymakers and researchers who will draw negative conclusions from it.

The data reported in 2021 is not very consistent, resulting in negative results. Some states, such as Vermont and Delaware, reported data from 100 percent of their counties, while other states, including Florida, California, and Pennsylvania, did not report. Only two states in Florida and 15 in California submitted data from their approximately 750 law enforcement agencies. There is no data at all from police departments in New York City, Miami, Chicago, or Los Angeles.

This makes the federal hate crime data for 2021 meaningless.

Data on hate crimes have long been problematic and are often criticized for oversimplifying the scale of the problem. The Department of Justice’s Department of Justice Statistics, for example, uses a different method and reports a hate crime rate of about 1 in 1,000 people, or about 250,000 hate crimes each year—more than 30 times what the FBI data says.

But the 2021 data goes a step beyond even these problems by providing incomplete and skewed data as a representative national data set. The FBI’s hate crime website continues to use phrases that describe the data as “national” hate crime statistics, which means that the data represents the problem at the national level even if some of the most populous areas of the country are left out. This adds to the problems that exist with the number of hate crimes in ways that have extensive planning and resources.

Statisticians have techniques to interpret incomplete data, but even the kind of bootstrapping that social scientists usually do to estimate averages cannot solve the problems of the 2021 data. The only correct statement that can be made about the 2021 data is that hate crimes have increased dramatically. The report of 7,300 incidents reported by only 63 percent of local organizations is a big jump from the 8,300 incidents reported by 80 percent of the area. But there is no way to explain how big the growth was, in part because reporting was uneven in urban and rural areas.

Much of the missing data, for example, comes from large urban areas where significant increases in hate crimes have already been recorded. Hate crimes are at their highest level in two decades in Los Angeles County, with nearly 800 hate crimes recorded there last year. But the FBI’s data shows only 73 hate crimes for the entire state of California in 2021. Hate crimes in New York City rose by 76 percent in early 2022 compared to the same period last year, according to the NyPD’s Hate Crime Task Force, but. FBI data shows absolutely nothing. Nationally, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism shows a significant increase in hate crimes across the country, with a 20 percent increase in a sample of major US cities in 2021 and a further increase in 2022. None of that is reflected in the 2021 FBI. data.

It is a shocking act of forgery to release this distorted data. Hate crime terminology is used to document trends in violence against target groups, with regard to law enforcement, resource allocation, and ways to prevent hate-related violence.

What Should Be Done?

The 2021 data should not have been made public at all. It makes no sense—in fact, it’s misleading—to share “national” report data that isn’t being used properly. Since the NIBRS change is short, the data should simply be left blank with a description of the missing year. In the short term of removing the data, the FBI should put a clear asterisk next to all reports using the 2021 numbers noting the error, and should make it clear on its website and in all public discussions that the 2021 data is problematic and should not be used. used to compare with previous or next years. If the data continues to be available to the public, the FBI should work to restore the lost data with as many reports from local areas as possible, so that the 2021 data will be more representative over time.

Urgent advice is also needed to ensure that the debacle in reporting hate crimes in 2021 is not repeated. Congress should pass legislation mandating the reporting of hate crimes to the FBI from all jurisdictions across the country and providing resources to do so. Federal funding to law enforcement agencies must be included on that report.

Even if the 2022 reporting is improved, the FBI should continue to recommend the use of the 2021 data or comparison with it. The data is misleading, skewed, and unfortunately does not represent the hate that continues to affect communities across the country.

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