Continuing a trend which began in 2017, hate crimes against Indian Americans continued to rise, according to new data released by the FBI Nov. 12.
More than 16,000 law enforcement and other agencies used the FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting program to submit data about bias-motivated incidents in their jurisdiction. Agencies are not mandated to report hate crimes, which may lead to under-reporting of such incidents, said Gujari Singh, communications director at the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund. SALDEF encourages Sikh Americans to report hate crimes to the organization to make sure they are counted in the data.
Singh said she believes this year’s statistics represent an under-reported number of bias-related crimes.
Anti-Sikh hate crimes rose by 200 percent since 2017, making Sikhs the third most commonly targeted religious group in the data-set, noted the Sikh Coalition, adding that it was disheartening to see that while the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics has determined that Americans experience an average of 250,000 hate crimes per year, the latest FBI data, by contrast, only managed to document 7,120 incidents, with less than 13 percent of law enforcement providing reports of hate crimes.
The FBI report released data for 2018, noting that numbers were slightly lower than 2017, when 7,175 incidents were reported.
Sikh Americans were targeted in 60 incidents, involving 69 victims and 49 offenders. In 2017, only 20 incidents targeting Sikh Americans were reported, involving 26 victims and 18 offenders.
In 2016, the first year the FBI dis-aggregated data for various Indian American ethnicities, seven bias incidents against Sikh Americans were reported, with eight victims and 10 offenders.
Hate crimes targeting Hindu Americans stayed roughly the same levels. In 2018, 12 incidents were reported, with 10 offenders targeting 14 victims. In 2017, 11 incidents were reported, with 10 offenders targeting 15 victims. The numbers were about the same for 2016: 10 hate crimes were reported, with 12 Hindu American victims targeted by 10 offenders.
Muslim Americans faced a slight drop in the number of hate crimes targeting the community. A total of 188 incidents were reported in 2018, with 153 offenders targeting 236 Muslim Americans.
Bias-related crimes against the Muslim American community were high in 2017: 273 incidents were reported, with 231 offenders targeting 325 victims.
Crimes against the Muslim American community peaked in 2016: 307 incidents were reported, with 243 offenders targeting 388 victims. Many organizations attributed the rise in anti-Muslim bigotry that year to then candidate Donald Trump’s xenophobic rhetoric on the campaign trail.
Overall in 2018, the Asian American community experienced 148 bias-related incidents, with 125 offenders targeting 177 victims.
Interestingly, California had the highest number of reported hate crimes in 2018. A total of 736 agencies participated in the collection of data, covering a population of more than 39 million, 220 agencies in California reported 1,063 bias-related incidents.
Texas, which has a population of more than 27 million, reported 455 hate crimes with 1,028 agencies participating in the collection of data. New York, New Jersey, and Washington states had the highest number of hate crimes relative to population and the number of reporting agencies.
The majority of the reported hate crimes were motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias (59.6 percent). Additional biases included religion (18.7 percent), sexual orientation (16.7 percent), gender identity (2.2 percent), disability (2.1 percent), and gender (0.7 percent), reported the FBI.
“Hate crimes continue to be a threat to minorities throughout the nation and showed a marked increase in hate crimes committed against Sikhs,” said SALDEF executive director Kiran Kaur Gill in a press statement. “This marked increase reinforces the commitment by the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education to broaden Sikh awareness, continue to partner with law enforcement to ensure accurate reporting, proper identifications and swift investigations, and to continue to advocate for new legislation,” she said.
“At the end of the day, this data simply isn’t giving us the accurate information we need to effectively counteract hate against targeted communities,” said Sim Singh, Sikh Coalition senior manager of Policy and Advocacy. “It’s past time for action. Congress must pass the next generation of common-sense legislation that equips law enforcement to better identify and track hate incidents.
The Sikh Coalition is a proponent of the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, which would require the federal government to address under-reporting and related issues by vastly improving hate crime reporting with funding for resources at the state level, including critical training for law enforcement and the establishment of hate crime reporting hotlines.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, introduced the Act in the Senate on June 27. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where no further action has been taken, according to the congress.gov bill tracker.