Many of the most populous cities across the country experienced an uptick in hate crimes last year, a trend that has continued since the start of the pandemic, according to a preliminary report from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
The study examined hate crimes across 16 of the biggest cities in the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Denver and Louisville.
Per the draft report, which has not yet been released to the public, those 16 cities experienced a cumulative 44% jump in reported hate crimes, up from 1,492 in 2020 to 2,150 in 2021. Phoenix, Sacramento, and Tampa – three additional cities examined in the study – were not included in the overall total, as their sample sizes were either too small, included non-criminal offenses or only represented partial-year totals.
Los Angeles and New York reported the highest and second highest amounts, respectively, of “any U.S. city in the 21st century,” the report found in part. Antisemetic incidents were the most commonly reported hate crime in New York City, while Black Americans were the most-targeted group in the majority of other major cities.
Reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans jumped 342% from 2020 to 2021, continuing a pattern from the previous year: Anti-Asian crimes increased 124% between 2019 and 2020.
FBI data from 2020 indicated there was a 77% increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes, up from 158 in 2019 to 279 in 2020. The discrepancy between the FBI data and the draft report from CSUSB can be attributed to the differening definitions of "hate crimes" between federal and state laws, particularly "with respect to homeless and political status in a small number of agencies such as Seattle and Washington, D.C.," the CSUSCB researchers wrote in part. The CSUSB study also examined select cities as opposed to the entire country.
While some jurisdictions have yet to report complete numbers from last year, the preliminary data showed that San Francisco and New York had the highest percentage changes in hate crimes between 2020 and 2021, at 100% and 96%, respectively.
According to preliminary figures released by the San Francisco police department in late January, reported hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were up an astonishing 567% from the previous year in the city.
Mayor London Breed pledged continued support for the community, saying she suspects actual numbers are much higher because people are reluctant to report to the police. The initial count shows 60 victims in 2021, up from nine in 2020. Half of last year’s victims were allegedly targeted by one man.
Across the country, the Stop AAPI Hate coalition out of San Francisco State University tracked more than 10,000 incidents of hate from March 2020 through September 2021.
The disturbing spike in hate crimes against the Black community began in early 2020 following the murder of George Floyd in March. A number of high-profile hate crimes cases are still in progress, including the trial for three white men convicted of the Feb. 2020 killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. While the incident occurred before Floyd’s death, arrests came only after the video leaked online two months later and became public knowledge.
Numerous Asian American organizations have said the increase in hate crimes against the Asian American community can be attributed, in part, to former president Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric concerning the origins of COVID-19 in China, which they say emboldened people to express anti-Asian or anti-immigrant views.
The U.S. has experienced a series of fatal incidents targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in recent months, including a series of deadly shootings last year.
More recently in January, 40-year-old Michelle Alyssa Go died after a mentally unstable man shoved her in front of an oncoming subway.
Just this weekend, Christina Yuna Lee, 35, died after being stabbed in her apartment. While police have not yet said if they are investigating the incident as a hate crime, New York City mayor Eric Adams on Sunday tweeted in part: “... we stand with our Asian community today.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.