Hate Crime Prevalence and Victimization

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Uneven Data Collection Makes Estimating Prevalence Difficult

Accurate estimates of the prevalence of hate crime remain elusive because of differences in data collection efforts across jurisdictions. In addition to varying state definitions, differences in law enforcement training, statistical reporting provisions and attitudes toward hate crime as a legitimately separate class of crime all make it harder for law enforcement and researchers to establish the scope of the problem.

Reporting under the Hate Crime Statistic Act

In 1990, Congress passed the Hate Crime Statistics Act, which required the U.S. Department of Justice to acquire crime data from law enforcement agencies and publish an annual summary of findings. The FBI led a coordinated effort to collect hate crime data via the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system.

In 2008, law enforcement agencies voluntarily reported 6,598 single-bias hate crime incidents (involving 7,775 offenses, 8,322 victims, and 6,219 known offenders) to the FBI. Almost half (48.5 percent) were racially motivated and 19.7 percent were motivated by religious bias. Bias against sexual orientation and ethnicity or national origin accounted for another 18.5 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively. [1]

Victimization Survey Reports Higher Numbers

Estimates from victim interviews reported as part of the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) far exceed the numbers reported by police agencies in the URC. NCVS indicates that approximately 191,000 hate crime incidents occur annually. Results from victim interviews indicate that only 44 percent of victimizations were reported to the police.[2] Only about 20 percent of these were validated by law enforcement as bias related.

Immigrants as Victims

In late 2009, NIJ was tasked by Congress to "evaluate trends in hate crimes against new immigrants, individuals who are perceived to be immigrants, and Hispanic-Americans, and to assess the underlying causes behind any increase in hate crimes against such groups."[3] NIJ has funded Abt. Associates to conduct this evaluation, which is ongoing.


[note 1] Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hate Crime Statistics, 2008. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, November 2007.

[note 2] Harlow, C.W. Hate Crimes Reported by Victims and Police. Special Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2005, NCJ 209911.

[note 3] See "Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010," House Report 111-366, December 8, 2009.

Date Created: December 22, 2010