DOJ Study: More Than 250,000 Hate Crimes a Year, Most Unreported
More than 250,000 Americans over the age of 12 are victimized every year by hate criminals, according to a new government study that puts the number some 50,000 higher than the best earlier analyses. At the same time, the study found that in recent years only about one in three hate crimes are ever reported to law enforcement officials.
The study, carried out by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, was based primarily on the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, which employs detailed questionnaires that are widely considered the most accurate measure of U.S. crime available. In addition to analyzing more recent years, it refines two earlier studies based on the surveys, to produce data for the years 2003-2011.
The two earlier studies found that there were an annual average of about 210,000 hate crime victimizations a year in 2000-2003 and about 195,000 in 2003-2009. But the new study’s authors, Lynn Langton and Michael Planty, explained to Hatewatch that they had made a number of technical changes to achieve greater accuracy. The most important was counting series of up to 10 hate crimes against one victim as individual crimes, rather than lumping them together as a single crime.
The bureau’s new study groups data into two periods, 2003-2006 and 2007-2011. It finds that the average annual number of hate crime victimizations was 256,080 for the earlier period and 259,690 for the latter — virtually unchanged, statistically speaking. (The numbers do vary greatly from year to year, from about 217,000 to over 281,000.) But it also found that while 46% of hate crimes were reported to officials in 2003-2006, that number dropped to just 35% in 2007-2011. The study’s authors did not suggest what might be behind that relatively major decrease.