11/22/2010 11:17 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Reported Hate Crime Drop Sharply, But Data Is Limited

Hate crime incidents reported to the police in the United States decreased sharply, by 15% in 2009 according to data released today by the FBI. There were 6,604 incidents in 2009 down from 7783 the year before when a 2.1% increase was reported. The 2009 numbers appear to be the lowest reported in at least a decade, where the figures since 2002 have generally been in the 7,000-8,000 range. Last year's rise was less than the increase in the number of agencies participating in the reporting program. The number of agencies participating in the data collection effort ( most of which reported zero) increased in 2009. 14,422 agencies "participated" in the effort, up from 13,690 the year before, however, the number of agencies actually sending in incidents declined from 2145 (15.7% of agencies) in 2008 to 2,034 (14.1% of agencies) in 2009. A 2005 victimization study estimated that there are 191,000 hate crimes nationally, with most going unreported to police. Overall, non-hate crime declined about 5% last year.

The most frequent hate crimes were property destruction, 2,465; intimidation, 2,158; and simple assault. Hate crimes are far more likely to be directed against people than are crimes overall, but many of those are threats.

FBI Hate Crime Data Link

Of the 6,6604 incidents:

3,199 or 48.5% were racially motivated, of which 2,284 or 71.4% or racial hate crimes were against

African Americans

1,303 or 19.7% were on the basis of religion, of which 931 or 70% of the religion total were directed against Jews and 107 against Muslims

1,223 or 18.5% were directed against gays, of which 682 or 55.6%. were directed against gay males

777 or 11.8% were directed on the basis of national origin, of which 483 or 62.3% were against Hispanics.

96 or 1.5% anti-disability crimes took place with 71 on the basis of mental disability.

Residences, streets and parking lots, schools and houses of worship were the most frequent
locations of reported hate crime last year.

Today's data continued to be hampered by vastly uneven participation across the nation. New Jersey and New York reported 549 and 626 hate crimes respectively, while neighboring Pennsylvania with a population between its two neighbors counted only 46. Another neighbor, Ohio reported 297. Similarly, South Carolina reported 124 while neighboring Georgia, with a much larger population reported only 11. Arkansas reported 74, while neighboring Mississippi reported 2. Hawaii did not report any hate crimes and did not participate in the program.

While there may have been a downward trend, as suggested by those states with consistent reporting, today's report is undermined by a continued lack of reporting by various states, including some of the largest that had previously participated more actively in the past.