Good morning and thank you for this important discussion. Preventing and prosecuting hate crimes is a top priority for the Justice Department. Hate crimes instill fear across communities and undermine our democracy. But we cannot be effective in prevention and prosecution of hate crimes without more accurate and comprehensive data collection and reporting.
This year, law enforcement agency participation in submitting all crime statistics to the FBI fell 22%. That number is even starker for hate crimes: 93% of agencies reported hate crime statistics in 2020, but only 65% reported in 2021. Why? Because 2021 was the first year the FBI relied exclusively on the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for receiving crime data, including hate crimes data, from our state and local partners.
NIBRS is significantly better than the prior system — it collects substantially more detailed data for each individual criminal incident, and it provides a richer and more complete picture of all crime nationwide, including hate crimes. Better data means a better understanding of crime and how to prevent it. But as of today, only 67 percent of the over 18,600 state and local agencies are submitting NIBRS data.
We are taking this very seriously at the Justice Department, and we’d like you to join us. Since 2016, the Justice Department has been assisting jurisdictions transition from the old collection system to NIBRS, through training offered by the FBI and over $120 million in grants through the FBI and our Bureau of Justice Statistics. As explained in a report we are publishing today, we have and will continue to provide this support to help our partner agencies transition to NIBRS.
But despite our efforts and the efforts of thousands of law enforcement agencies working to make the transition, many agencies, including several of the nation’s largest, are not yet NIBRS-compliant. In those jurisdictions — including some of your cities — no crime data is going to the FBI, about hate crimes or otherwise. This makes it more difficult to report on general trends in crime across the nation, such as which communities are experiencing an increase in bias-motivated attacks.
The problem is especially acute for hate crimes because many agencies that are NIBRS-compliant are not submitting hate crime data. As a result, the 2021 Hate Crime Statistics released late last year provided an incomplete picture of hate crime trends in this country.
The Justice Department needs the active participation and partnership of mayors and police chiefs to get us to 100% participation in NIBRS and in hate crimes reporting in particular.
If your local law enforcement agency has not yet transitioned, I urge you to take up the cause. If you or they need more information or resources, let us know. Whether it is funding, training, or technology preventing the transition, the Department will continue to help.
If your local agency has transitioned to NIBRS, then make sure they are reporting their hate crime data. This system works best — for all of us — when everyone is contributing.
I’d also like to mention two other critical strategies for preventing and combatting hate crimes: First, building and solidifying police-community trust so community members will report hate crimes to authorities; and second, proper training for law enforcement to be able to identify and respond appropriately to hate crimes.
One way to increase trust is to work with your local U.S. Attorney. Last September, the Justice Department officially launched the United Against Hate program in U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country. The program brings together community groups, community leaders, federal hate crimes prosecutors, and law enforcement at every level to build trust and strengthen coordination to combat hate crimes and hate incidents by helping community members learn to identify, report, and prevent hate crimes. We have already launched the training in 19 offices, and it will be offered in all 94 by the end of this year. The feedback from communities has been incredibly positive, and your support of this program would be invaluable.
Training is also key, because we cannot combat hate crime and improve reporting unless we are able to correctly identify it. Last year, the Justice Department’s COPS Office released a new hate crimes recognition and reporting training aimed specifically at line-level officers. It can be requested by your local agency at no cost. And this fiscal year, the Department can award close to $30 million in grants to support state and local agencies in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, in addition to grants to improve reporting.
With your help in improving hate crimes reporting, we can work towards a country where no one is forced to live their life in fear of being attacked because of what they look like, whom they love, or where they worship. Thank you for your partnership for an inclusive democracy.