Anti-Asian hate incidents could continue their upward trajectory even with inaccurate or underreporting as agencies and initiatives expand.
New York seeks to combat its largest increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes. Incidents targeting Asians rose 343% in 2021. 538 total reports were filed in the same year–a 96% increase from 2020’s high of 275.
Federal and state agencies coordinate the recording and tracking of hate crimes. According to the Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center (CJSAC) of West Virginia’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the hate crime stats might be higher.
Through the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) of 1990, the FBI established the national hate crime data collection program. It requires the attorney general to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Hate Crime Statistics is a voluntary reporting system that certain jurisdictions don’t use, resulting in lower reported cases.
Other stats are aggregated by NGOs. For instance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) receives its data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Both agencies are considered to be at the top for accuracy.
Media outlets, such as NBC, use the University of Michigan’s Virulent Hate Project. Its Anti-Asian Racism in 2020 study reviewed 4,337 news articles published between January 1 and December 31, 2020, reporting 1,023 incidents. 112 incidents involved physical harassment and violence.
There were only 16 examples where the offenders were explicitly identified in the source articles. Three perpetrators were identified as black men.
In 2020, more than 100 Asian women were victims of a black gang in San Jose. The gang was linked to 177 robberies targeting women almost all of Asian descent. The perpetrators used ethnic slurs to refer to their victims, making the motivation apparent. This one story alone demonstrates that not all studies are accurate or equal.
Still, the CJSAC stresses the most significant problem in hate crime statistics is officer misclassification of incidents. Its studies demonstrate officers often fail to identify hate crimes in serious crimes such as murder or torture, making some experts believe they cannot detect bias in minor offenses either.
The CJSAC found that officers assigned to special bias crime units tend to face ridicule as not “normal cops.” Due to personal beliefs, officers may not enforce hate crime laws too.
Lack of personal incentive or disincentive for reporting further reduces the number of reported incidents. In some cases, victims don’t report crimes or incidents.
Many cases go “unfounded,” meaning they are reported to law enforcement but subsequently determined false or baseless. Criminal motivation isn’t always so clear-cut, but police tend to believe the crime must be premeditated for there to be a motivated bias.
Unfounded cases were found to contribute to the overcounting of actual hate incidents, according to the CJSAC. Unfounded cases falsely labeled as hate incidents add to the inflation.
The CJSAC study also found officers put extra consideration before categorizing a hate crime or incident. This may be an unwillingness to pursue a serious indictment and possible conviction.
Reporting of hate crimes is also complicated by state-determined protected classes. West Virginia, California, and Iowa recognize political affiliation, while most others do not. Protected class status differs from state to state.
Another perspective is the inflation of hate crime rates by perception. According to Pew Research Center, eight-in-ten Asian Americans said violence against them is increasing. 45% claimed to have experienced an incident tied to their racial or ethnic background since the pandemic.
Whether the reported incidents are real or perceived hate incidents is inconsequential, as they typically aren’t scrutinized further or minimized.
Democrats took the anti-Asian hate crime aiming at hate crime legislation. New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman introduced the Hate Crimes Analysis & Review Act as a standardized system for New York police, courts, and prosecutors in reporting hate crime incidents.
Similarly, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law intended to speed up the review of pandemic-related hate crimes and provide grants to local law enforcement to improve reporting.
Both initiatives look to centralize hate crime data. Centralization may solve part of the accuracy problem, but it’s also dependent upon state level compliance and methodology.