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Hate crime murders surged to record high in 2019, FBI data show

Hate Crimes
Posted at 10:23 AM, Nov 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-16 12:23:12-05

Hate crime murders surged to a record high in 2019 and overall hate crime incidents also rose, according to annual data released Monday by the FBI.

Data shows 51 people were the victims of murder or non-negligent manslaughter motivated by hate in 2019, far surpassing the 24 people killed the year before. According to the Anti-Defamation League, 2018 had already been the deadliest year on record for victims of hate crimes since the FBI began tracking the data in the early 1990s.

Last summer's mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart was the deadliest anti-Latino attack in modern U.S. history. The shooting suspect, who railed in a manifesto about a "Hispanic invasion of Texas," is facing federal hate crime charges. In 2018, a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest anti-Semitic crime in U.S. history.

"When one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it hurts the whole community—that's why people are feeling vulnerable and afraid," ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

Of 15,588 law enforcement agencies who provided data to the FBI in 2019, 2,172 reported 7,314 hate crime incidents involving 8,559 offenses, meaning some incidents involved multiple criminal charges or victims. The total incidents rose from 7,120 in 2018, a year in which hate crime incidents had declined slightly following three years of increases.

The ADL noted that the numbers increased despite two years of drops in the total number of law enforcement agencies who participate in the federal data collection program.

Most of the hate crime incidents reported by the FBI in 2019 — 7,103 — stemmed from a "singe bias," rather than multiple biases. Of the "single-bias" incidents, the FBI said:

  • 55.8% were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity or ancestry
  • 21.4% were motivated by bias against religion
  • 16.8% were motivated by bias against sexual orientation
  • 2.8% were motivated by bias against gender identity
  • 2.2% were motivated by bias against disability
  • 1% were motivated by bias against gender

Race-based crimes have remained the most common type of hate crime in the nearly three decades the FBI has tracked the data, according to the ADL. Nearly half of race-based hate crime offenses in 2019, 48.4%, were anti-Black, the data show. Of hate crime offenses motivated by religious bias in 2019, 60.3 percent were anti-Jewish.
In 2019, anti-Jewish crimes rose 14 percent and anti-Hispanic crimes rose nearly nearly nine percent, the fourth year of increases, according to the ADL. Hate crimes motivated by gender-identity bias rose another 18 percent following a 41 percent increase in 2018.

Hate crime prevention advocates caution that the data is likely widely under-reported. They point out a significant gap in the FBI's data which came to light because two of the most notorious hate crimes in recent years were never reported to the government, even though they were prosecuted as hate crimes. The killing of Heather Heyer in the 2017 Charlottesville car attack as she protested the "Unite the Right" rally, and the fatal 2016 shooting of Khalid Jabara in Tulsa by a neighbor who had terrorized the victim's Lebanese family, were both left out of national hate crime statistics collected by the FBI. Proposed legislation named for the victims, the Heather Heyer and Khalid Jabara NO HATE act, would provide incentives for hate crime reporting and grants for state-run hate crime hotlines.