2020 saw highest number of hate crimes since 2008, data shows

The number of hate crimes reported in 2020 was the highest recorded in over a decade, according to FBI data released Monday. The total number of incidents, 7,759, represented a 6% increase from 2019 and the highest number of hate crime incidents recorded since 2008, a year that had 7,783 incidents.

The data shows that 7,554 single-bias hate incidents involving 10,528 victims were reported to the FBI in 2020. An additional 205 incidents fueled by multiple biases, and involving 333 victims, were also recorded.

Advocates say that hate crimes are widely under-reported and that the data reported to the FBI only account for a portion of actual incidents. They warn that the data is based on voluntary reporting by local law enforcement agencies, and many who do participate report no hate crimes. The 2020 data is based on reports received from 15,136 out of 18,623 agencies in the country, according to the FBI. 

Of the hate crimes reported in 2020, 61.9% involved victims targeted over race, ethnicity or ancestry bias; 20.5% of victims were targeted over sexual orientation bias; 13.4% were targeted because of religious bias; 2.5% were targeted because of gender identity bias; 1% were victimized over disability bias, and .7% were targeted over gender bias. As in past years, Black Americans made up te largest share of individuals targeted because of race or ethnicity bias, while Jewish Americans were the group most often targeted over religious bias.

Hate crimes in U.S. rise to highest levels in… 00:41

The number of anti-Black offenses rose from 2,470 in 2019 to 3,886 offenses in 2020. The number of anti-Asian hate offenses also rose significantly, jumping to 335 in 2020 from 216 the previous year. The increase in acts of hostility and attacks against Asian Americans has been linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Anti-lesbian bias incidents rose sharply, from 149 in 2019 to 1028 in 2020, with intimidation incidents accounting for the majority of the increase. Hate incidents targeting transgender people were also up from 186 offenses in 2019 to 232 offenses in 2020. Advocates say that Black transgender women, in particular, are vulnerable to hate incidents because of a toxic combination of racism, sexism and transphobia.

“These hate crimes and other bias-related incidents instill fear across entire communities and undermine the principles upon which our democracy stands,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “All people in this country should be able to live without fear of being attacked or harassed because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love or how they worship.”

The offenses encompass crimes against persons, including intimidation, murder, rape and assault, and crimes against property, most of which were acts of vandalism or destruction. According to the FBI, 22  instances of murder or nonnegligent manslaughter and 19 rapes were reported as hate crimes in 2020.

2019 was the deadliest year on record for victims of hate crimes since the FBI began recording the attacks in the early 1990s, with 51 people slain.