FBI Report Shows Six Percent Decline in US Hate Crimes, But State Data Flawed

12/10/2012 01:58 pm ET | Updated Feb 09, 2013

Lowest Numbers Since '94

Hate crime incidents reported to police in the United States decreased by over six percent in 2011 according to data released today by the FBI. There were 6,222 incidents in 2011, down 406 incidents from the 6,628 reported in 2010 and a nearly identical 6604 in 2009. Today's annual numbers are the lowest reported since 1994 and are among the smallest since the FBI began collecting national data pursuant to the Hate Crime Statistics Act in the early 1990s. A hate crime is a criminal offense motivated in whole or in part by the actual or perceived group status of another, such as race.

Most Agencies Report "Zero" Crimes

Since 2002, reported incidents have generally been in the 6,600-8,000 range. The number of agencies participating in the data collection effort (most of which reported zero) was 14,575 agencies, down from 14,977 agencies the year before. However, the number of agencies actually sending in incidents was only 1,944 or 13.7 percent of participating agencies, five less agencies than in 2010. A 2011 victimization study by the Bureau of Justice statistics estimated that there were 148,400 hate crimes nationally in 2009, with most going unreported to police. Overall, crime in general declined last year, with a 3.8 percent decline in violent crime and a half percent decrease in reported property crime.

Most Hate Crime Directed at People, Not Property

The most frequent hate crimes were property destruction at 29.3 percent; followed closely by intimidation, 29 percent; and simple assault at 22 percent. Hate crimes are far more likely to be directed against people, at 64 percent, than are crimes overall, but many of those person direct hate crimes are threats, not assaults. Of the hate crimes directed at persons, 45.6 percent were "intimidation" or threatening types of conduct. There were four hate crime homicides in 2011, the second lowest in the past decade. So, far unofficial data by California State University, San Bernardino show that in 2012 there were at least 10 hate crime homicides in the United States.

African Americans Continue to Be Most Targeted

Almost half of all hate crime, 3,465 or 47.9 percent, was committed on the basis of race, 72 percent of which was anti-black and 16.7 percent anti-white. Less than 15 percent of the population is African American. Twenty point eight pecent of hate crime or 1,508 incidents were due to sexual orientation, nearly all anti-gay or -lesbian. Religiously motivated hate crime totaled 1,318 and comprised 19.8 percent of all hate crime, of which 62.2 percent was anti-Jewish, 13.3 percent anti-Muslim and 5.2 percent anti-Catholic. Less than two percent of the population are either Jewish or Muslim. National origin/ethnicity accounted for 11.6 percent of hate crimes, with 891 incidents, 56.8 percent of which were directed against Latinos. Less than one percent of all hate crimes were done on the basis of disability, with over half being directed at the mentally disabled.

State Data Varied and Sometimes Flawed

California, the nation's most populous state, reported the most hate crime, 1,040 incidents, with over one in six nationally reported there. However, the national data is compromised by vastly uneven reporting, particularly by some southern states that have large African American populations, as black people represent the single largest block of victims. Mississippi, which has the largest percentage of African Americans of any state, only reported one hate crime last year. Just this month, however, pleas have been entered in the racially-charged killing of a black Mississippi man run down by white youths. Georgia, which also has one the nation's largest percentage of African Americans, only reported 17 incidents, while neighboring South Carolina, with a far smaller population, reported 135. Similarly Pennsylvania, which in prior years enumerated hundreds of hate crimes, counted only 53 last year, while neighboring states like New York and New Jersey had over 500 each, and Ohio had 228. Hawaii, which just had an ethnic brawl resulting in eight arrests at a high school, does not participate in the national reporting program at all.

In 2014 the FBI is expanding the groups covered in its data-collection pursuant to the 2009 Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Act, but it will not include the homeless, who have been murdered in acts of hate violence in numbers over the past decade far greater than all the groups currently covered by the FBI combined.

Last month the New York based Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, reported 1,080 anti-Semitic incidents, including non-criminal ones, in 2011, a 13 percent decline from the previous year. This past March the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center counted a record number of both hate and anti-government groups at 1,018 and 1,274, respectively. The National Coalition for the Homeless is releasing a hate crime report this month.