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Hate Crimes Reach The Highest Level In More Than A Decade

Updated September 1, 2021 at 11:17 AM ET

There were 7,759 reported hate crimes in the U.S. last year — the most in 12 years, the FBI reported this week. But some experts and advocacy groups say the true number is probably even higher.

The number of recorded bias incidents reported by the FBI was the highest since 2008, when 7,783 hate crimes were reported to the agency, federal data shows.

The spike in 2020 follows a recent upward trend in bias incidents, and it was a 6% increase over 2019.

Nearly two of every three hate crimes reported last year — 64% — were motivated by a bias against race, ethnicity or ancestry, the FBI said. Of all hate crimes, 36% were anti-Black or anti-African-American, 10% were anti-white and 9% were anti-Jewish.

"As [the Anti-Defamation League] has said time and time again, when just one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it negatively impacts the entire community, resulting in marginalized groups rightfully feeling vulnerable and under siege," said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement.

The FBI defines a hate crime as an offense that is motivated at least in part by a bias against a victim's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.

The numbers released this week represent the hate crimes reported to the FBI last year by 15,136 law enforcement agencies across the country. Some experts say the true number of hate crimes is likely higher, since not every crime is reported to law enforcement, not every agency reports its data to the FBI and many agencies report no incidents.

"While these numbers are disturbing on their own, the fact that so many law enforcement agencies did not participate is inexcusable, and the fact that over 60 jurisdictions with populations over 100,000 affirmatively reported zero hate crimes is simply not credible," Greenblatt added.

The increase also comes amid a rise in reported hate crimes against Asian people. The national coalition Stop AAPI Hate received 9,081 incident reports of bias incidents against Asians and Pacific Islanders between March 19, 2020, and this June.

The sudden increase in reported hate crimes against Asian people was attributed in part to the scapegoating of the Asian community for the emergence of COVID-19, which originated in China and which former President Donald Trump called the "Chinese virus."

In a statement, Attorney General Merrick Garland said preventing and responding to hate crimes was among the Justice Department's top priorities.

"These hate crimes and other bias-related incidents instill fear across entire communities and undermine the principles upon which our democracy stands," he said. "All people in this country should be able to live without fear of being attacked or harassed because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love or how they worship."

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