Hate Crimes Up? Some Clarification is Necessary


We have multiple measures of hate crimes, one touting a 20 percent increase, and one from the US Department of Justice stating that hate crimes decreased. Who is correct?

If the percentage of hate crimes suspected to be motivated by gender bias nearly doubled from 15% in 2007 to 29% in 2015, why isn’t this being addressed? In this day and age of sexual attacks by politicians and celebrities, why is this statistic ignored?


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University.

Focus of the Article

The focus of this article is on “violent” hate crimes from the National Crime Survey; it’s by far the largest and most reliable dataset of hate-related incidents we have. The majority (90%) of hate crimes during 2011-15 involved violence and about 29% were serious violent crimes (rape and sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault). Because 90 percent of hate crimes involve violence, I will use “hate crimes” and “violent hate crimes” interchangeably.

64.5 percent of hate crimes in the FBI’s report are crimes against persons.

Most commentators use the smaller totals presented by the FBI when more reliable data (based on the numbers) is offered by the National Crime Survey.


Are hate crimes up?

Does all data indicate an increase in hate crimes? Is all that data reliable? Do the numbers present questions that allow us to come to a better understanding of hate crimes?

Some observations are necessary:

I profoundly dislike anyone who discriminates against any of my black or gay or Jewish or disabled friends and family members, or anyone else. They are the lowest form of humanity. They are scumbags. We are one America, and it’s up to all of us to respect all Americans.

There are contextual issues and questions in the analysis of hate crimes that few seem willing to acknowledge.

Providing Context to Hate Crime Statistics

There are two primary national measures of crime and hate crimes, crimes reported to the police via the FBI and those measured by the National Crime Survey. Both are agencies within the US Department of justice. The National Crime Survey was implemented to get an accurate assessment of criminality due to underreporting crimes to law enforcement.

As to hate crimes, critics state that the vast majority are not reported to law enforcement. But the vast majority of all criminality is not reported to law enforcement. Why would hate crimes be any different?

Per the FBI, hate crimes were up five percent when comparing 2016 to 2015. But violent crimes across the board were up for both years. For example, homicides have the highest percentage increase since the 1960’s. Violent crime often rises and falls as a group. It’s possible that hate crimes could mimic other increases.

Critics state that 88 percent of law enforcement agencies report they had no hate crimes and imply that these agencies were not taking hate crimes seriously. I suggest that a similar percentage applies to virtually all data reporting requirements from the FBI. There are millions of missing files as to warrants, convictions, and data that need updating. Getting 19,000 understaffed state and local police agencies to fulfill any reporting requirements is almost an impossible task, Crime in America-Data.

Nearly half (46%) of violent hate crime victimizations were committed by a stranger which means that most were committed by someone known to the victim. A principal reason why so many violent crimes are not reported is that it was considered a private matter; something that victims believe did not need to be reported to law enforcement.

I’m guessing that most people think that hate crimes happen between strangers. What dynamics are at play when a friend or acquaintance or co-worker engages in an act of violence and adds a statement that falls into the category of a hate crime? The offender used hate language in almost all hate crime victimizations (99 percent).

The National Crime Survey states that “violent” hate crimes declined (chart below) with more being reported to law enforcement.

Not one of the articles presented below cited the decrease which is the most accurate indicator available.

Primary Findings from the National Crime Survey Data

In 2015, the rate of violent hate crime victimization was 0.7 hate crimes per 1,000 persons age 12 or older.

This rate was not significantly different from the rate in 2004 (0.9 per 1,000).

The report was released in June of 2017 and documented the highly-charged politics of the 2015 presidential campaign.

The absence of change in rates from 2004 to 2015 generally held true for violent hate crimes both reported and unreported to police.

However, between 2012 and 2015, the rate of unreported violent hate crime declined slightly, from 0.6 to 0.3 victimizations per 1,000 persons.

Violent hate crime victimizations accounted for 4% of all violent victimizations.

Between 2007 and 2015, the percentage of hate crimes perceived by victims to be motivated by racial bias decreased from 62% to 48%.

During that time, the percentage of hate crimes suspected to be motivated by gender bias nearly doubled from 15% in 2007 to 29% in 2015.

Media Examples

FBI: Hate Crime Reports Surged After Trump’s Election

Per The Crime Report: The number of hate crimes reported in the United States reached a five-year high in 2016, taking a noticeable uptick toward the end of the year around the time of Donald Trump’s unexpected electoral college victory, reports the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FBI said Monday that law enforcement agencies nationally tallied 6,121 reports of hate crimes last year, up about 5 percent from the 5,818 reported in 2015.

However, 88 percent of participating law enforcement agencies reported no hate crimes in their jurisdictions, an ongoing challenge for data collection efforts.

The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (i.e., The National Crime Survey-my addition) estimates an annual average of 250,000 incidents of hate crime victimizations in the U.S., about 40 times the number reported by the FBI.

The FBI figures show that 1,747 hate crimes were reported in the last quarter of 2016, a 25.9 percent increase over October through December in 2015. That figure supports a sharp increase in bias incidents reported by journalists and civil rights organizations in the wake of the election.

Hate Crime Data Called ‘Complete and Utter Joke’

Per The Crime Report: A deeply flawed system for collecting hate crime data has left the U.S. with unreliable, incomplete official counts and little handle on the true scope of bias-motivated violence, ProPublica reports.

Under a 1990 federal law, the FBI is required to track and tabulate crimes in which there was “manifest evidence of prejudice” against a host of protected groups, including homosexuals, regardless of differences in how state laws define who’s protected. The FBI relies on local law enforcement agencies to collect and submit this data, but can’t compel them to do so. Many police agencies across the country are not working very hard to count hate crimes. Thousands of them opt not to participate in the FBI’s hate crime program at all.

Among the 15,000 that do, some 88 percent reported they had no hate crimes.

Local law enforcement agencies reported a total of 6,121 hate crimes in 2016 to the FBI. Estimates from the federal National Crime Victimization Survey put the number of potential hate crimes at almost 250,000 a year — one indication of the inadequacy of the FBI’s data. “The current statistics are a complete and utter joke,” said Roy Austin, former deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ civil rights division.

Many hate crime cases fall away before they start because about half the victims never report them to authorities.

Hate Crimes Up 20 Percent

Per The Crime Report: Hate crimes in nine U.S. metropolitan areas rose more than 20 percent last year, fueled by inflamed passions during the presidential campaign and more willingness for victims to step forward, a leading hate crimes researcher said on Monday.

Bias crimes appeared to increase in some cities following the Nov. 8 election of President Donald Trump, a trend that has extended into this year with a wave of bomb threats and desecrations at synagogues and Jewish cemeteries

The data was collected by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The new numbers, collected from police departments, reverse a trend toward fewer hate crimes in many of the cities in recent years, NBC News.


So we have three measures of hate crimes reported above, one touting a 20 percent increase, and one from the US Department of Justice-National Crime Survey stating that hate crimes decreased. See graphic below.

Groups Victimized

More than half (53%) of violent hate crime victimizations were against whites.

Hispanics had the highest rate of violent hate crimes.

Most violent hate crimes involved race.

Religion was a small percentage of violent hate crimes.

During 2011-15, males and females had similar rates of hate crime victimization.

Hispanics (1.3 per 1,000) experienced a higher rate of violent hate victimization than non-Hispanic whites (0.7 per 1,000). By rate, blacks were second and whites third.

For both hate and non-hate violent crime victimizations, young persons ages 12 to 17 had a higher rate of victimization than persons age 50 or older (same for violent crime in general).

In both hate and non-hate violent victimizations, persons in households in the lowest income bracket had the highest rate of victimization than all other income categories.

So Hate Crimes Haven’t Increased?

I’m not suggesting that hate crimes (violent and nonviolent) haven’t gone up. There are simply too many media reports where people are stating that they were victimized because of race, religion or sexual orientation or other classifications.

We all agree that this is disgusting.

But as stated above, there are nuances and complexities in the numbers.

Per Pew, the number of assaults against Muslims in the United States rose significantly between 2015 and 2016, easily surpassing the modern peak reached in 2001, the year of the September 11 terrorist attacks, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new hate crimes statistics from the FBI. In 2016, there were 127 reported victims of aggravated or simple assault, compared with 91 the year before and 93 in 2001, Pew.

Per the National Crime Survey, U.S. residents experienced an average of 250,000 hate crime victimizations each year from 2004 to 2015.

So who offers the best numbers that help us understand hate crimes, data that indicate that 127 were victims or data that analyses 250,000 incidents? Pew isn’t wrong, but smaller numbers have higher spikes.

If we are going to meaningfully address hate crimes (as we must), we need the best possible data while understanding complexities and nuances. As stated, the best data on hate crimes is from the National Crime Survey and it offers decreases that most choose to ignore.

If the percentage of hate crimes suspected to be motivated by gender bias nearly doubled from 15% in 2007 to 29% in 2015, why isn’t this being addressed? In this day and age of sexual attacks by politicians and celebrities, why is this statistic ignored?

Yes, the National Crime Survey only goes to 2015, but when you have massive data sets analyzed over the course of many years, big percentage spikes are rare. As stated above, the report was released in June of 2017 and documented the highly-charged politics of the 2015 presidential campaign.


Bureau of Justice Statistics-Hate Crimes

FBI-Hate Crimes

The Crime Report


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Data Collection Definitions

Every measure of hate crime will be different (i.e., the FBI also collects information on vandalism and crimes directed towards organizations). But National Crime Survey data records substantially more crime, and with it being charted over many years, it’s clearly the most reliable source, thus NCS findings are used for this article.

Findings are primarily from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) National Crime Survey (NCS), which has collected data on crimes motivated by hate since 2003.

The NCS and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Hate Crime Statistics Program are the principal sources of annual information on hate crime in the United States.

BJS and the FBI use the hate crime definition established by the Hate Crime Statistics Act “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”

The NCS measures crimes perceived by victims to be motivated by an offender’s bias against them for belonging to or being associated with a group largely identified by these characteristics.

Hate crime victimization refers to a single victim or household that experienced a criminal incident believed to be motivated by hate. For violent crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) and for personal larceny, the count of hate crime victimizations is the number of individuals who experienced a violent hate crime.

Trend estimates are based on 2-year rolling averages centered on the most recent year. For example, estimates reported for 2015 represent the average estimates for 2014 and 2015.

Differences Between FBI and National Crime Survey Data

A major difference between the two collections is that the NCS focuses on hate crimes experienced by individuals, while the UCR program also captures hate crimes committed against businesses, religious institutions, other organizations, and society as a whole.

The two surveys also measure somewhat different types of crimes. For instance, the UCR program measures homicide and vandalism, while the NCVS does not.

Due to the differences between the two collections, from 2003-15, 87% of NCVS hate crimes reported to police were violent crimes, while 60% of UCR program recorded hate crimes were violent.

Serious violent crime accounted for 31% of NCVS hate crime reported to police, compared to about 13% of UCR hate crime. Vandalism and intimidation, two crimes not measured in the NCVS, accounted for about 60% of UCR hate crime.


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