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Federal Data on Hate Crimes in the United States

CRS – Federal Data on Hate Crimes in the United States, March 22, 2021: “A number of recent and high-profile crimes where the offenders’ actions appeared to be motivated by their bias or animosity towards a particular race, ethnicity,religion, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity has contributed to a perception that hate crimes are on the rise in the United States.These incidents might also generate interest among policymakers about how the federal government collects data on hate crimes committed in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started its Hate Crime Statistics program pursuant to the requirement in the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HSCA,P.L. 101-275) that the Department of Justice (DOJ) collect and report data on crimes that “manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender and gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, including where appropriate the crimes of murder, non-negligent manslaughter; forcible rape; aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation; arson; and destruction, damage or vandalism of property.” In addition to the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics program, DOJ also collects data on hate crime victimizations through the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS’) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS measures self-reported criminal victimizations including those 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 the characteristics outlined in the HSCA.Scholars, advocates, and members of the media have pointed out that there is a significant disparity between the number of hate crimes reported by the FBI each year and the number of hate crime victimizations reported by BJS. This has led some to criticize the hate crime data published by the FBI as an undercount of the number of hate crimes committed in the United States each year. However, this statistics gap can be partially explained by the different measures and methodologies utilized by the FBI and BJS to collect these data. For example, the FBI only reports on crimes that have been reported to the police, while BJS collects reports of criminal victimizations that may or may not meet the statutory definition of a hate crime and may or may not have been reported to the police. There are a number of reasons why some victims do not report their victimization to the police, including fear of reprisal, not wanting the offender to get in trouble, believing that police would not or could not do anything to help, and believing the crime to be a personal issue or too trivial to report…”

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