AuthorLevin, Brian

INTRODUCTION 750 I. RECENT TREND SUMMARY 759 II. HISTORY OF HATE CRIME DATA COLLECTION EFFORTS IN THE UNITED STATES 764 A. The Hate Crime Statistics Act and the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting 764 B. Bureau of Justice Statistics 767 C. Other Reporting Efforts: State and Local 767 III. CHARACTERISTICS, FREQUENCY, AND TYPES OF HATE CRIME VARY OVER TIME 769 A. Words Matter Too 776 B. Election 2016 778 IV. THE CHANGING NATURE OF HATE OFFENDERS 789 A. Mission Offenders as Terrorists 793 V. NATIONAL INCIDENT-BASED REPORTING SYSTEM HATE CRIME 793 A. Findings 794 VI. POLICY PROPOSALS 797 CONCLUSION 799 INTRODUCTION

As the nation becomes increasingly polarized, social science, digital, and police data reveal key information respecting the evolving dynamics of intergroup conflict--including our area of focus: hate crime and expressions of bigotry online. Retrospective analysis of three decades of national hate crime and newer-but-related online data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other researchers uncovered key facts not only about long-term incremental changes respecting offense, offender, and victim type, but also about the multiple episodic instances of precipitous shifts and increases--particularly a 2021 record left unidentified in the FBI's most recent incomplete report.

Over the decades, catalysts for these types of hate crime spikes have included not only highly charged national elections and related political events, but also violent police-citizen interactions, terrorist attacks, the COVID-19 pandemic, tumultuous international conflicts, and domestic court verdicts. The 2020 FBI crime data indicate a historic recent precipitous shift to violent racial hate crime, with spikes beginning around the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 and the historic social justice protests following the George Floyd murder only months later. More recent but separately collected police data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSHE) indicate an increase in the largest American cities in 2022, but a far more mixed outcome overall. Anti-Asian American hate crimes remained at elevated levels, after peaking at an apparent record the year before in 2021.

Our analytics disaggregate multiple decades of FBI data by month, day, and year to reveal critical facts as to the timing and severity of historic shifts and increases. From the mid-1990s until 2014, hate crime laws in the United States saw near universal adoption (though with very uneven enforcement and low prosecution rates), and reports of these crimes had been generally declining overall. The decline was briefly, though severely, interrupted by a record 9,730 criminal incidents in 2001, many after the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terror attacks and by other periodic increases during national elections inter alia} However, after 9/11, FBI hate crime totals quickly reverted to levels lower than those seen in the years just before 2001. Anti-Muslim crimes dropped, but never reverted to pre-9/11 annual levels. Overall, FBI totals remained in the 7,500 per year range for around a half-decade until rising to 8,039 in the 2008 election year when President Obama was elected, not breaking that level again until 2020. (2)

While annual FBI totals hit a multi-decade low in 2014, hate crimes and related mass casualty events have increased since then. These intermittent increases are often precipitated by a catalytic event, followed by a precipitous but short-lived spike in bigoted aggression, both online and terrestrially. (3) In 2016, such a spike occurred directly after the election in November, with hate crimes hitting their highest monthly level in over a decade before dropping soon after. Hate crimes rose the following year, but levels plateaued and stabilized in the low 7,000 annual range. Other peak times in that period were in August 2017, when white supremacists descended on Charlottesville and President Trump uttered his "very fine people" statement days later, and right before the 2018 contentious mid-term elections. (4)

This annual numeric plateau ended in 2020 amid historic new spikes that remained elevated for far longer than seen in previous sharp upturns. Event-driven racial targeting fueled the highest number of annual hate crimes since the record year of 2001.

By 2020, a rotation occurred targeting negatively stereotyped groups, such as Asians due to unfounded projections of blame for the COVID-19 pandemic and, months later, Black Americans during the protests in response to the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police officers. The reach of bigotry, misinformation, and conspiracy theories into mainstream virtual gathering places has grown in part because of the efforts of various domestic and sometimes foreign malefactors on social media and elsewhere. The circulation of derisive stereotypes expanded to encompass memes, gaming, audio, and video across a range of platforms to increasingly include smaller, less-regulated, encrypted, and affinity-based spaces. (6)

While the currently available FBI data extends to the end of 2021, the 2021 report alone is incomplete with respect to the analysis of annual trends. (7) However, other available data indicate that the United States experienced a significant increase in hate crimes in 2021, not the decline shown in the FBI data. First, hate crime continued a multi-year upward trend according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSHE). CSHE reported a 35% increase across dozens of cities in 2021 and a 21% increase across various states, while in 2022 a smaller sample remained virtually unchanged, although significant increases were reported among the very largest cities. (8) The latest analysis confirms both (1) an increasing diversification and rotation of victim targets overall and (2) spikes in the months of, and directly before, consequential events such as national elections, terrorist incidents, and domestic social unrest. Additionally, CSHE analysis further reveals that 2021 was a record year for hate crime overall and for hate crimes committed against Asian Americans when 2021 FBI and independently collected, though mostly excluded, cases from California, New York State, and Chicago are added in. (9) When the 7,303 hate crimes reported by the FBI in its incomplete 2021 report include the 1,690 missing cases from California, the 716 unreported cases from New York State, and the 104 unreported cases from Chicago, the adjusted total exceeds 9,800, establishing a record since national data collection commenced in 1991. (10)

The increasing diversification and rotation of victim-group targeting that is seen nationally can also be influenced locally by regional demographics. When a city has a larger representation of a scapegoated group than the national average, such as Jewish Americans during conflicts in the Middle East or Asians during COVID-19 spikes, it often corresponds with a higher reporting of hate crimes against those groups. (11)

Census data indicate that larger cities grew more diverse over the last decade and the data here show that those more densely populated and diverse places report more hate crimes. (12) The ten U.S. cities of over one million residents reported a 47% increase, while those under 500,000 residents reported only about an 11% rise. (13) A separate CSHE multi-state survey found a smaller increase of 21%. (14) In 2022, preliminary CSHE data found a 9.2% projected increase in the ten largest cities, but a smaller increase of 6% across a larger multi-city sample. (15)


    Until 2021, the FBI and municipal hate crime data reporting had limitations and gaps but was still a longstanding source of data with a relatively stable set of thousands of agencies submitting reports of suspected hate crimes annually--although most report none. The collapse of FBI reporting in 2021 to 11,834 agencies from over 15,000 the year before, led the agency to caution that "data cannot reliably be compared across years." (17) The FBI stated further that "[a]s a result of the shift to NIBRS-only data collection, law enforcement agency participation in submitting all crime statistics, including hate crimes, fell significantly from 2020 to 2021." (18)

    After the passage of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990 (HCSA), (19) the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) prepared uniform partial annual national summaries of hate crime data from 1991 until 2019, after which a new FBI system was implemented. (20) Because official government police data on hate crime now extends back three decades, both overall trends and episodic sharp hate crime fluctuations are observable when the data is disaggregated or combined with other statistics. The most recent multi-year trends showed the following shifts:

    (1) Offenses materially shifting away from property crime to person-directed crimes with intermittent mass homicides, primarily by white supremacist "mission offenders";

    (2) Vastly uneven or absent reporting by police, indicating that victims in wide swaths of the nation are being neglected.

    Among the most significant realignments has been a sharp historic shift in racial hate crime in 2020. Disturbingly, these new spikes in racial hate crime levels have remained elevated longer in the case of Black Americans in 2020, or in a higher resurgence spike in early 2021 respecting Asian Americans correlating with an increase in COVID hospitalizations. (21) In recent years, spikes routinely appear accompanied by an increased use of derisive epithets online and manipulation around catalysts like the COVID-19 pandemic, policing conflicts, politics, terror attacks, and other facts, with a probable shift to "defensive/reactive" offenders. Additionally, along with an overall multi-year rise, there were significant recent realignments respecting a surge in racial and other hate crimes that occurred in 2020, according to FBI data. In a separate survey, that...

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