Hate-Crime Violence Hits 16-Year High, F.B.I. Reports

Personal attacks motivated by bias or prejudice reached a 16-year high in 2018, the F.B.I. said Tuesday, with a significant upswing in violence against Latinos outpacing a drop in assaults targeting Muslims and Arab-Americans.

Overall, the number of hate crimes of all kinds reported in the United States remained fairly flat last year after a three-year increase, according to an annual F.B.I. report. But while crimes against property were down, physical assaults against people were up, accounting for 61 percent of the 7,120 incidents classified as hate crimes by law enforcement officials nationwide.

State and local police forces are not required to report hate crimes to the F.B.I., but the bureau has made a significant effort in recent years to increase awareness and response rates. Still, many cities and some entire states failed to collect or report the data last year, limiting the conclusions that can be drawn from the F.B.I. report.

In addition, experts say that more than half of all victims of hate crimes never file a complaint with the authorities in the first place.

Even so, the F.B.I. said there were 4,571 reported hate crimes against people in 2018, many of them in America’s largest cities, involving victims from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

“There’s a diversifying base of groups that are being targeted,” said Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, who produced an independent analysis of the F.B.I.’s figures. “We’re getting back to more violence,” he said.

The F.B.I. defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property, motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Victims of hate crimes can include institutions, religious organizations and government entities as well as individuals.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the report.

The 4,571 attacks against people tallied by the bureau for 2018 included aggravated assaults, which were up 4 percent; simple assaults, up 15 percent; and intimidation, up 13 percent.

These trends happened despite a national decline in violent crime in general, and coincided with a 19 percent drop in bias-driven property crimes.

Mr. Levin said the data points toward a change from young people committing vandalism and other property crimes toward more deliberate attacks on people. “We’re seeing a shift from the more casual offender with more shallow prejudices to a bit more of an older assailant who acts alone,” he said.

Immigration has replaced terrorism as a top concern in the United States, according to national surveys. That shift appears to be reflected in the hate-crime data, which shows fewer attacks against Muslims and Arab-Americans in recent years, but more against Latinos.

The F.B.I. said 485 hate crimes against Latinos were reported in 2018, up from 430 in 2017. It said 270 crimes were reported against Muslims and Arab-Americans, the fewest since 2014.

Hate crimes against Latinos were at their highest level since 2010, when the unemployment rate and border crossings from Mexico were both peaking.

Other groups also saw an increase in reported crimes against them. Attacks directed against Sikhs tripled to 60 in 2018; people with disabilities experienced 159 attacks, a rise of 37 percent, and attacks on transgender people increased by 34 percent, to 142.

Reported hate crimes against African-Americans declined to 1,943, the fewest since 1992, about the time the F.B.I. began collecting data.

Although nationwide F.B.I. data for all of 2019 won’t be available until next November, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism examined hate-crime reports so far this year in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago and found that all three cities — plus the nation’s capital — appear to be headed for decade highs.

Hate crimes against Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Muslims are down in New York, the center said, but reports of anti-Semitic hate crimes are driving the overall total up. Of the 364 hate crimes reported in New York through Nov. 3, the center said, 148 targeted Jewish people. There were 295 hate crimes reported in the city over the comparable period in 2018.

In Los Angeles 249 hate crimes were reported in the first nine months of 2019, up from 217 in the same period last year. And Chicago had 77 reported hate crimes through early November, compared with 78 for the whole of 2018.

The great majority — 87 percent — of the 16,039 law enforcement agencies that sent data to the F.B.I. for 2018 said no hate crimes were reported in their jurisdiction during the year. Twenty-five cities with populations of more than 150,000 people reported no hate crimes, including Plano and Laredo, Texas; Newark, N.J.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Madison, Wis.

No hate crimes were reported by any law enforcement agency in Alabama.

The share of agencies reporting no hate crimes to the F.B.I. was even higher — nearly 90 percent — in 2016, even though November 2016 was the worst month for hate crime attacks during this decade, Mr. Levin said.

The F.B.I. has said it was training law enforcement officers across the country to better identify and report bias-motivated incidents, in an effort to more accurately track hate crimes.

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