The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed profound disappointment at the failure of more than 25 percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies to provide the FBI with their hate crime numbers, calling the lack of participation by many jurisdictions “a significant setback in the progress our nation has made in hate crime data collection over the past decade.”
The missing data has resulted in a flawed 2012 edition of the FBI’s national Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
Due to a deeply disturbing trend of under-reporting and under-participation by law enforcement agencies, including more than a dozen of the largest agencies in the United States, the 2012 Hate Crime Statistics Act report is seriously flawed. This inadequate reporting demands a response from federal, state, and local officials, as well as civil rights and police organizations.
Especially disappointing is the fact that the report contains no data from jurisdictions that had been models for national response in the past. This is a significant setback in the progress that has been made over the past decade. The Justice Department and the FBI should use every resource at their disposal to push harder to obtain this missing data, urging those cities and states that still have not provided their 2012 hate crime data to do so as quickly as possible. Law enforcement agencies that failed to participate fully this year should also take steps to ensure timely, full participation in the future.
Working with our broad coalition, we will seek to reboot the HCSA collecting and reporting program. In addition, we will urge retraining for law enforcement in an effort to ensure more comprehensive hate crime reporting in the future – especially as agencies begin reporting Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act-mandated categories in 2013. We will also urge Congress, the Justice Department, and the FBI to explore new steps that could be taken to ensure more accurate, helpful statistics.
The HCSA report is more than just numbers. Behind the numbers are individuals and communities deeply affected by these crimes. When an agency does not participate in the HCSA program, it inevitably raises questions about whether that agency is truly ready and willing to respond to hate violence effectively.
The 2012 FBI report documented 5,796 hate crimes. While this appears to represent a 7 percent decrease from 2011 figures and the lowest number of reported hate crimes since the program’s inception in 1991, this comparison is misleading because of extreme under-reporting by law enforcement agencies. HCSA reporting has been voluntary since 1991 and only 13,022 law enforcement agencies out of approximately 18,000 provided data to the FBI in 2012. By comparison, approximately 14,500 agencies reported in 2011.
The FBI relies on timely collection and reporting so the data can be aggregated and published annually. Over the past 15 years, the Bureau’s HCSA report has become the single most important national source of information about the problem of hate violence in America, and an essential resource for criminologists, policymakers and analysts. The HCSA has increased public awareness of the problem and sparked significant improvements in the local response of the criminal justice system to hate violence.