Rising FBI Hate Crime Data Still Highlights Ongoing Reporting Problem

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November 13, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – This morning, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a well-intentioned but flawed annual report on hate crime in the United States.  

A 2017 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that there are 250,000 hate crime victimizations in the U.S. each year, but FBI data, which shows rising hate crimes in 2016, are based entirely on voluntary reports by U.S. law enforcement.  As a result of systemic underreporting, there remains an enormous gap between FBI hate crime data and the reality of the problem for Sikh Americans and other impacted communities.

FBI data showing 6,121 hate crime incidents and 7 anti-Sikh hate crime incidents in 2016 represents the tip of the iceberg,” said Sim Singh, the Sikh Coalition’s National Advocacy Manager.  “The only way to bridge the data gap is for law enforcement agencies to adopt mandatory hate crime reporting.”

The Sikh Coalition estimates that Sikhs remain hundreds of times more likely to experience hate crimes than the average American because of their small population and the frequency with which they are targeted. In March, a Sikh man was shot in Kent, Washington after the attacker told him to “go back to your own country.” In 2016, the Sikh Coalition received legal intakes from 15 Sikhs who believed they were subjected to hate incidents. Since the start of 2017 there have been 13 similar intakes.

“If law enforcement agencies fail to document the true extent of hate crimes against our communities, our nation will have a hard time mobilizing the political will and resources necessary to prevent and combat the problem,” said Singh.

There are approximately 500,000 Sikhs in the United States.  Although Sikh Americans have been repeatedly targeted for hate crimes since the 9/11 attacks, the FBI agreed to track anti-Sikh hate crimes in response to a lobbying campaign in the aftermath of a 2012 neo-Nazi attack on a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The agency officially began collecting data on anti-Sikh hate crimes in 2015.

The Sikh Coalition is the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the United State as has 16 years of legal and policy expertise on issues related to hate crimes. For more information about the Sikh community or for potential interviews, please contact Mark Reading-Smith.

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