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Latest FBI data on hate crimes against Arabs and Muslims ‘incomplete and unreliable’

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CHICAGO: A recently introduced FBI system designed to improve the monitoring and recording of hate crimes is “not complete” and is still evolving, officials from the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee told Arab News on Tuesday. As a result, they said, the latest statistics collected from it are “unreliable.”

The FBI has been collecting data from states and documenting incidents of hate crimes since 1991. In 2021 it introduced the National Incident-Based Reporting System, which it said would make it easier to consistently log hate crimes and provide a clearer and more accurate view of the problem across the country, said Chris Habiby, the ADC’s director of government affairs and advocacy.

However, law enforcement authorities in several major jurisdictions in states with large Arab American populations have yet to start using NIBRS, and an estimated 56 percent of hate crimes are not reported to authorities at all, he added, which calls into question the latest FBI statistics.

“This year’s hate crime statistics report is incomplete and unreliable and we must not compare it to previous years,” said Habiby.

“Our collective focus must be on standing with every community targeted by hate violence and working to ensure full and accurate reporting in the years ahead. We must also work toward making hate-crime reporting by law enforcement agencies across the country mandatory.”

According to the FBI report, 7,303 hate crime incidents were reported in 2021. Of those, the greatest number of incidents based on race, ethnicity or ancestry (2,233) were against Black people. There were 324 anti-Jewish incidents, which was the largest number based on religion.

The report includes 75 incidents of anti-Arab hate and 96 incidents targeting Muslims but Habiby said these figures are far below the actual numbers.

“The problem right now is that there are a significant amount of agencies that are not NIBRS-compliant yet so their data was not included in the report that was released,” he explained.

“There are more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the country and a third of them did not report anything (to the new system).

“We are talking about almost, essentially, the entire states of Florida and California had no data reported. New York City, Chicago and Phoenix had zero data reported and we know there are a significant amount of hate crimes that occur in those jurisdictions.

“They haven’t transferred their data into NIBRS and, to remain uniform, the FBI did not include their data in the report that was released … It speaks to the unreliability of the report this year.”

The problem is compounded by a general underreporting of hate crimes to law enforcement in the first place, Habiby added.

“We have to factor in that the Department of Justice estimates that 56 percent of all hate crimes are not reported, so the number that we see is already going to be lower than what the reality is,” he said.

According to the Arab American Institute, nearly two-thirds of Arabs in the US live in just 10 states: California, Michigan, New York, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Despite the issues surrounding the delays among law enforcement agencies in integrating with the new FBI system, Habiby said the ADC believes that when all states and jurisdictions update their procedures and start entering all their data into NIBRS it will provide a more accurate picture of the extent of hate crimes not only against Arabs and Muslims in the US, but all communities.

Meanwhile, he added, the ADC is working to compile its own figures and encourages Arab and Muslim Americans to report any incidents of hate crimes to the organization in addition to reporting them to the police.

ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said: “The Arab and Muslim communities continue to be targeted by those who hold anti-Arab, racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic views. ADC has begun work to strengthen and expand the nationwide community infrastructure to accurately capture and report anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate crimes and incidents nationwide.”

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