PHOENIX – Hate crimes in Arizona in 2020 were the highest reported since 2001 in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, new FBI statistics show, but lawyers and experts say many other hate crimes likely haven’t been reported.
According to the FBI’s Voluntary Uniform Crime Report, Arizona recorded 282 hate crimes in 2020, continuing an upward trend from 2019 and recording one of the highest in 30 years.
Nationally, hate crimes jumped to 8,263 in 2020 from 7,287 in 2019, according to the data.
The increase in 2020 has come alongside spikes in political and racial divisions in the United States, with deep conflicts over issues such as immigration, police abuse of people of color and the pandemic. of COVID-19.
“When we demonize groups, unfortunately what happens is that some people take that as permission to go out and commit a hate crime,” said Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute for Race and Justice. Northeastern University.
Another alarming trend, fewer police departments sent hate crime data to the FBI’s reporting system, or reported the crime count to zero, leading many to believe that the 2020 numbers are not a picture. complete the problem.
Of the 125 law enforcement agencies in Arizona, only 81 submitted data to the FBI’s reporting system. The 2019 report used data from 92 agencies.
In 2020, 15,138 of 18,625 law enforcement agencies across the country submitted data, up from 15,772 of 18,674 in 2019.
“The vast majority of agencies across the country… report to the FBI that they did not commit any hate crimes in 2020,” said Michael Lieberman, senior policy adviser at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Only 2,389 of the 15,138 reported one or more hate crimes, so obviously the numbers are incomplete.”
The FBI defines a hate crime as “a criminal offense committed which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s prejudice (s) against any race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or a gender identity ”.
In Arizona, crimes motivated by race, ethnicity and ancestry made up the majority of hate crimes in 2020, accounting for 198 of the 282 incidents reported. Among racially motivated hate crimes, black Americans reported the highest number, accounting for 114 out of a total of 198.
Crimes against Hispanics or Latinos were the second highest reported, at 31, followed by whites, at 29.
Carlos Galindo-Elvira, director of community engagement and partnerships for Chicanos Por La Causa, called the data alarming and said “one hate crime is too much.”
“Hate crimes are message crimes,” he said. “Although there may be one or more victims of the crime, it is a clear message to the rest of the community: ‘You are not wanted here’, ‘We do not like your species. It must be terrifying for the individual, but also for the community as a whole. “
Religious stigma was the second most common reason for hate crimes in Arizona, at 36 (13%).
Marc Krell, associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona, said rhetoric from states and local political levels has exacerbated the hatred. In September, State Senator Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, compared COVID-19 vaccines to the Holocaust and tweeted an image of needles shaped like a swastika.
“It’s an example of people having a platform,” Krell said. “When we see this kind of message coming out of the elect, it’s very disturbing because it shows people that everything is fine. “
Sexual orientation remained the third most common reason for hate crimes, with 33 in Arizona in 2020. The fourth was crimes against gay men, with 25.
Nationally, hate crimes against Asians jumped to 279 in 2020, from 161 in 2019. This follows anti-Asian rhetoric surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, including former President Donald Trump calling the “kung flu” virus and “Wuhan virus”. In Arizona, 4 hate crimes targeting Asians were reported in 2020, up from 1 in 2019.
But these statistics show an incomplete picture of the number of hate crimes committed in the country, according to lawyers and experts.
“The extent of the undercoverage is hard to say,” McDevitt said.
In some cases, victims do not report. Lieberman said there are many reasons people don’t report, including fear of the police, language barriers, status of documents, and LGBTQ + people who have not “come” to their families or to their homes. their coworkers.
Galindo-Elvira said some victims may not recognize that the crime committed against them was a hate crime.
And in other cases, McDevitt said, hateful behavior occurs but is not considered a crime by law enforcement.
“Sometimes we think of things that are hurtful and we would like to report them, but they are not considered crimes,” he said.
Additionally, the FBI’s data collection system is voluntary, and an agency is counted even if it does not report any hate crimes.
Lieberman said about 70 cities with more than 100,000 residents – including Tucson – have not reported any hate crimes or have not reported any. The Pima County Sheriff’s Department reported 26 hate crimes last year.
Tucson Police officials did not respond to questions about hate crimes in 2020. This is the first time since 2007 that the city has not reported any hate crimes; in 2019, Tucson police reported 16.
In 2020, Phoenix recorded the most reported hate crimes in the state, at 187, up from 151 in 2019.
Glendale, Chandler and Gilbert each reported several incidents.
“The safety of our community is the top priority of the Phoenix Police Department, and we have a team of detectives dedicated to investigating bias-motivated crime,” Police spokesperson Ann Justus said in a report. -mail. “We are aware of UCR data and are constantly assessing crime trends with the goal of reducing victimization of members of our community. “
To reduce hate crimes nationwide and in Arizona, advocates and experts have said, more needs to be done to educate the public and provide support to those who have been victimized.
“Fear motivates people who commit hate crimes,” said Galindo-Elvira, “but fear also prevents people from reporting. “
Galindo-Elvira said that Chicanos Por La Causa seeks to help victims by speaking out against hatred and supporting victims in times of need.
Local leaders and government officials across the state should speak out against hatred and insist that it is not normalized, he said, “because when you shut up it gives occasion of a raw permission “.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to shine a light against hate, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to ensure that we have a society that embraces everything and embraces diversity,” he said. .
McDevitt echoed similar sentiments, adding that “the diversity in our communities makes us stronger, it does not make us weaker”.
“As a society, we need to understand that hate crimes can tear us apart,” he said. “If we don’t take them seriously and react positively, our communities will collapse. “
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