The 2017 FBI hate crime report is a tremendous opportunity to lie with numbers. The Tree of Life synagogue shootings and Democratic rise to power in the House add unwanted substance to this newly-released data showing hate crimes rose for three years in a row.
Politicians, pressure groups, and the media will use the findings for their own purposes, but do the numbers show what they want them to show?
Irresponsible claim ahead of hate crime report release
Republicans have always been blamed for pushing their agenda by creating a climate of fear.
Now it’s the liberal left spreading fear about the impact of White House policy.
Chicago Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) tried to make sense of the insanity behind the Tree of Life shooter:
The racist hoax perpetrated by those who used false and exaggerated claims of danger to the United States and the American people from the so-called “caravan” of those seeking asylum from incipient danger to their families was apparently the spark which motivated the ultra-right fanatic to turn the weapons of war on a peaceful congregation.1
Reality has a tenuous connection to political need. Expect a lot more supposition now that Capitol Hill has statistics to back claims about the rise in hate crimes.
You can also expect this new report to be widely quoted, misinterpreted, and abused by lawmakers who won’t read the 2017 Hate Crime Statistics and will count on most of us not reading the report, either.
Democrats adopt a Republican trick
Data like this is easy to use. It’s hard to use responsibly. There will be an overwhelming temptation to make U.S. hate crime numbers match a story crafted many years ago.
Nancy Pelosi talked of the pervasiveness of hate in 2004 when George W. Bush was president:
Hate crimes have no place in America. All Americans have a right to feel safe in their community, yet FBI statistics continue to demonstrate a high level of hate crimes in our country. Federal hate crimes prevention legislation is the right thing to do, and it is long overdue.2
Fourteen years later we have another Republican president and Democrats are spreading fear about “unprecedented white supremacist violence”3 and an “unprecedented spike in hate crimes.”4
Lieu: spend and protect
California’s Ted Lieu called for more spending to protect communities:5
I strongly support the $60 million level of funding for the NSGP [Nonprofit Security Grant Program] included in the House Committee on Appropriations report for Homeland Security. I am, however, concerned that the level of funding recommended by Senate appropriators is only $35 million. It is critical that Congress adopts a funding level of at least $60 million.6
Do we need $25 million more for a program that will support target hardening and other physical security enhancements for nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of a terrorist attack.”? 7
Ask the FBI.
Confusion over confusing numbers
On November 13, 2018 the FBI reported a 17% increase in hate crimes.8
The Bipartisan Task Force for Combatting Anti-Semitism reported a 37% jump in anti-Semitic hate:
Just yesterday, the FBI released its 2017 hate crime statistics, showing a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. from 2016.9
Senator Kristin Gillibrand used a different source and decried a 60% rise:
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 were nearly 60% higher than the previous year. Against this backdrop of hate-filled threats and attacks on Americans, DHS has warned the public about increased homeland security threats.10
When the hate crime numbers came out last year Democrats were clever to blur the fact that the increase happened under Obama, not Trump:
The FBI recently reported that the agency documented 6,121 hate crimes in 2017 – a noted increase from 2015. However, this statistic is far from comprehensive given the broad gaps in reporting from many jurisdictions – meaning the true scope of this epidemic is likely far greater.11
The report came out in 2017. The hate crimes were from 2016 and as we will see in a moment, anti-Semitic hate crimes rose significantly while Barack Obama was in office.
What the FBI hate crime report really shows
FBI warnings aren’t the same as Congress’s warnings
The updated FBI hate crime report comes with a statement on Promoting Responsible Crime Analysis that includes suggestions on proper use of the data. The agency acknowledged that:
Legislators draft anti-crime measures using the research findings and recommendations of law enforcement administrators, planners, as well as public and private entities concerned with crime problems. The news media use the crime statistics provided by the UCR Program to inform the public about the state of crime as it compares to the national level.12
The 2017 numbers added 895 agencies to the reporting base13 which considerably increased the FBI’s ability to report this type of crime.
Anti-semitism: the real numbers
In 2017 there were 938 anti-Jewish incidents, 976 offenses, and 1,017 people victimized at the hands of 523 “known offenders.”14 58.1% of incidents where classified as anti-Jewish.15
In 2016 there were 684 incidents classified anti-Jewish, with 834 offenses, 862 victims, and 421 “known offenders.”16 54.4% were considered anti-Jewish.17
To compare to previous years, in 2012 while Barack Obama was in office 62.4% of anti-religious hate crimes were because of anti-Jewish Bias.18 In 2011 the number was 63.2%.19
Will Democrats credit Donald Trump for the difference? No, because that would be misusing the statistics.
Statistics show Trump made Obama’s murder rate go down?
It’s easy to misuse the FBI’s numbers. Let’s make the argument that Trump made Barack Obama’s murder rate go down.
In 2017 there were an estimated 17,284 murders in the U.S.20 This was a 0.7% drop from the last year Obama was in office. Hate crimes also rose in 2016. Murders were up 8.6% from 2015 and 16.1 percent from 2012.21
Does that mean Trump should get credit for fewer murders? No, because if you look at the raw numbers you will see that they frequently rise and fall from year to year. To give Trump or any president credit for these differences is lying with statistics.
White people less responsible for hate crimes?
It must be perplexing for Democrats spreading fear over white supremacy that only 50.7% of 2017’s hate crime offenders are white.22
It would be easy to use this number to argue that minorities are the ones most responsible for hate crimes. Certainly it would be no more irresponsible than trying to link Trump’s stance on the Latin American caravan with violent anti-Semitism.
Whether it’s responsible to draft legislation around these statistics is a question for lobbyists and pols who will try to use them to support conclusions made long before this hate crime report was issued.
1. “Statement of Representative Danny K. Davis on the Synagogue Massacre.” Danny K. Davis. October 29, 2018. https://davis.house.gov/statements/statement-of-representative-danny-k-davis-on-the-synagogue-massacre/, retrieved November 21, 2018.
2. “Pelosi: ‘Hate Crimes Prevention Legislation is Right Thing to Do, Long Overdue.’” Nancy Pelosi. September 28, 2004. https://pelosi.house.gov/sites/pelosi.house.gov/files/pressarchives/releases/Sept04/HateCrimes092804.html, retrieved November 22, 2018.
3. “In the Wake of Unprecedented White Supremacist Violence, Top Judiciary Dems Demand Emergency Hearings on Hate Crimes & Domestic Terrorism” U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary Democrats. October 29, 2018. https://democrats-judiciary.house.gov/news/press-releases/wake-unprecedented-white-supremacist-violence-top-judiciary-dems-demand, retrieved November 18, 2018.
4. “Rep. Richmond Responds to Kroger Grocery Store and Tree of Life Synagogue Mass Shootings.” Cedric Richmond. October 28, 2018. https://richmond.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-richmond-response-kroger-grocery-store-and-tree-life-synagogue-mass, retrieved November 18, 2018.
5. “Rep. Lieu Voices Support for Security Grants for Non Profit Institutions.” Ted Lieu. November 2, 2018. https://lieu.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-lieu-expresses-support-grants-security-non-profit-institutions, retrieved November 18, 2018.
7. “DHS Announces Grant Allocations for Fiscal Year 2018 Preparedness Grants.” Homeland Security. August 24, 2018. https://www.dhs.gov/news/2018/08/24/dhs-announces-grant-allocations-fiscal-year-2018-preparedness-grants, retrieved November 23, 2018.
8. “2017 Hate Crime Statistics Released.” FBI.gov. November 13, 2018. https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2017-hate-crime-statistics-released-111318, retrieved November 18, 2018.
9. “Rose-Lehtinen, Bipartisan Task Force Applaud Passage of Resolution Condemning Tree of Life Attack.” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. November 14, 2018. https://ros-lehtinen.house.gov/press-release/Ros-Lehtinen-bipartisan-task-force-applauds-passage-resolution-condemning-tree-life-attack, retrieved November 19, 2018.
10. “Gillibrand Calls On Congress To Fund Nonprofit Security Grant Program At Highest Possible Level, Ensure Houses Of Worship And Nonprofit Organization Have The Funds They Need To Protect Themselves Against Terrorist Attacks.” Kirsten Gillibrand October 30, 2018. https://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/news/press/release/gillibrand-calls-on-congress-to-fund-nonprofit-security-grant-program-at-highest-possible-level-ensure-houses-of-worship-and-nonprofit-organization-have-the-funds-they-need-to-protect-themselves-against-terrorist-attacks, retrieved November 22, 2018.
11. “Chairman Crowley, House Democrats Urge Republicans to Hold Hearings on the Rise of Hate Crimes.” Joseph Crowley. November 30, 2017. https://crowley.house.gov/press-release/chairman-crowley-house-democrats-urge-republicans-hold-hearings-rise-hate-crimes, retrieved November 25, 2018.
12. “Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics: Their Proper Use.” May 2017. FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/ucr-statistics-their-proper-use, retrieved November 18, 2018.
13. “2017 Hate Crime Statistics Released.” FBI. November 13, 2018. https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2017-hate-crime-statistics-released-111318, retrieved November 23, 2018.
14. “2017 Hate Crime Statistics. Incidents, Offenses, Victims, and Known Offenders by Bias Motivation, 2017.” FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/tables/table-1.xls, retrieved November 18, 2018.
15. “2017 Hate Crime Statistics. Victims.” FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/victims, retrieved November 23, 2018.
16. “2016 Hate Crime Statistics. Incidents, Offenses, Victims, and Known Offenders.” FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2016/tables/table-1, retrieved November 23, 2018.
17. “2016 Hate Crime Statistics. Victims.” FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2016/topic-pages/victims, retrieved November 23, 2018.
18. “2012 Hate Crime Statistics. Victims.” FBI.gov https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2012/topic-pages/victims/victims_final, retrieved November 23, 2018.
19. “Hate Crime Statistics 2011.” FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2011/narratives/victims, retrieved November 23, 2018.
20. “2017 Crime in the United States. Murder” FBI.gov https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2017/crime-in-the-u.s.-2017/topic-pages/murder, retrieved November 21, 2018.
21. “2016 Crime in the United States. Murder.” FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/topic-pages/murder, retrieved November 23, 2018.
22. “2017 Hate Crime Statistics. Offenders.” FBI.gov. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/offenders, retrieved November 23, 2018.