Washington, DC – Different organizations advocating on behalf of various religious and ethnic minorities reacted as the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program released its latest annual compilation this week of hate crime incidents reported throughout the US.
The newest report—which provided information about the offenses, victims, offenders, and locations of hate crimes—revealed that for 2016, law enforcement agencies reported 6,121 criminal incidents that were motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, or gender identity. This is the second year in a row that hate crimes have risen.
In the 2016 report,15,254 participating law enforcement provided from one to 12 months’ worth of data about bias-motivated crime, and of those agencies, 1,776 reported one or more incidents. The remaining agencies reported no hate crimes occurred within their jurisdictions.
In 2016, law enforcement reported a total of 7,615 victims of hate crimes. Of the 7,615 overall victims, 4,720 were victims of crimes against persons (both adults and juveniles), 2,813 were victims of crimes against property, and 82 were victims of hate crimes categorized as crimes against society (e.g., weapons violations, drug offenses, gambling).
The South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA) said it was disheartened by the numbers adding, “while instructive, these statistics paint an incomplete picture.”
“These statistics confirm the uneasy feelings of many of our community members, that we are being targeted,” said SABA president Rishi Bagga. “We must work with law enforcement, including reporting hate crimes when they occur. We must speak out. And most importantly, we must support each other,” noted Bagga.
“As lawyers, we support laws that will provide greater support to victims and will provide greater resources to combat bias-based crimes,” commented SABA.
Sikh Coalition Disputes Figures
Calling it a “a well-intentioned but flawed,” data, the Sikh Coalition, the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United States, noted, “As a result of systemic underreporting, there remains an enormous gap between FBI hate crime data and the reality of the problem for Sikh Americans and other impacted communities.”
“FBI data showing 6,121 hate crime incidents and 7 anti-Sikh hate crime incidents in 2016 represents the tip of the iceberg,” said Sim Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s National Advocacy Manager. “The only way to bridge the data gap is for law enforcement agencies to adopt mandatory hate crime reporting,” argued Singh.
In March, a Sikh man was shot in Kent, Washington after the attacker told him to “go back to your own country.” In 2016, the Sikh Coalition received legal intakes from 15 Sikhs who believed they were subjected to hate incidents. Since the start of 2017 there have been 13 similar intakes. The FBI agreed to track anti-Sikh hate crimes in the aftermath of a 2012 neo-Nazi attack on a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. There are approximately 500,000 Sikhs in the United States.
“If law enforcement agencies fail to document the true extent of hate crimes against our communities, our nation will have a hard time mobilizing the political will and resources necessary to prevent and combat the problem,” said Singh.
CAIR Asks For Action Against Bigotry
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, called for the need for all Americans to stand up to increasing bigotry nationwide.
Citing the FBI report, the CAIR statement noted that Jews and Muslims were the two most common targets of religiously-motivated hate crimes.
“We have all witnessed the anger and prejudice that characterized last year’s election season, and that is growing nationwide in the current political environment,” said CAIR National Department to Monitor and Combat Islamophobia Director Corey Saylor.
“To reverse this disturbing trend toward increased hatred and societal division, we must stand up to bigotry and the targeting of minority groups,” added Saylor.
Attorney General Promises Action
This is the second year in a row that hate crimes have risen and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has promised to “aggressively prosecute” hate crime offenses.
“No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, or how they worship,” Sessions said. “The full report of the Task Force is due in January, but there are actions we can take now, like continuing to aggressively prosecute” those who violate an individual’s civil rights.