Anti-Defamation League says Florida hate crimes are dropping because many aren’t reported

Hate Crimes
Only 12% of Florida law enforcement agencies that agreed to report hate crimes reported incidents last year.

Hate crimes nationwide are on the rise, but not in Florida, according to a new FBI report that shows bigotry-inspired acts have dropped significantly in the last three years.

But those numbers are likely inaccurate because of a national underreporting problem “that is particularly pronounced in Florida,” the Anti-Defamation League said Thursday.

The FBI’s annual hate crimes statistics report, released Monday, revealed that hate crimes in Florida fell from 145 in 2017 to 109 in 2020 — a 25% dip.

Meanwhile, hate crimes across the U.S. rose to 7,759 incidents reported in 2020, marking the highest total since 2008 despite the number of law enforcement agencies providing data dropping from 16,188 in 2018 to 15,136 in 2020.

Underreporting is a major issue in tracking hate crimes; the ADL noted that 85% of participating agencies did not report a single hate crime last year.

“Underreporting of hate crimes in Florida, and nationwide, is a severe obstacle to investigation and prosecution of these crimes, which leads to a lack of accountability for bias-motivated offenses that can intimidate, isolate and terrorize entire communities,” ADL Florida Regional Director Sarah Emmons said in a statement. “As the leader of the Florida Hate Crime Coalition, ADL continues to call on Florida’s law enforcement agencies to improve data collection and the reporting of the crimes, and we will continue working with the Florida Legislature to make our state’s hate crime law more comprehensive.”

While Florida’s hate crime numbers in 2020 hovered in the low 100s, states with similarly sized populations like New York and Texas reported a far greater number of incidents, 463 and 406, respectively.

The likely reason, ADL personnel said: Of 687 law enforcement agencies in Florida, just 452 participated in the FBI’s hate crime reporting program, and just 54 — 12% of participating agencies and 8% of all existing ones — reported at least one incident.

“We live in deeply dangerous times, and we have an insufficient government response to that danger,” U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Chair Catherin Lhamon told ProPublica in November 2019 after the FBI report from that year drew similar observations of declining hate crime reporting by police agencies. “The need for improved data collection and reporting is astonishing, and the absence of effective data hamstrings any effective response that we as a nation might have.”

And even though reported hate crime totals in Florida are dropping by the FBI’s count, the bureau’s data shows crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry rising in the state rose from 48 incidents in 2019 to 65 in 2020 — a 35% uptick. The FBI said roughly two of every three hate crimes reported in the U.S. were motivated by race, ethnicity, or ancestry.

Nationally, hate crimes targeting Black people rose by 45% last year compared to the year before. Anti-Asian hate crimes shot up 73% over the same period.

Hate crimes targeting the Jewish community made up about 60% of all religion-based incidents. In 2020, they fell by 29%. About 2.2% of Americans are Jewish, according to the most recent data from the Pew Research Center and U.S. Census Bureau.

The ADL said it plans “in the coming days” to update its interactive hate crime map, which includes links to every hate crime recorded in U.S. history and FBI hate crime data from 2004 to 2019 for all 50 states and cities with more than 100,000 residents.

“As the ADL has said, time and time again, when just one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it negatively impacts the entire community, resulting in marginalized groups rightfully fleeing vulnerable and under siege,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “While these numbers are disturbing on their own, the fact that so many law enforcement agencies did not participate is inexcusable, and the fact that over 60 jurisdictions with populations over 100,000 affirmatively reported zero hate crimes is simply not credible. Data drives policy, and without having a complete picture of the problem, we cannot even begin to resolve the issues driving this surge in hate and violence.”

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Alex

    September 2, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    Nothing works better than lying by never reporting the truth huh Republicans?

    Keeping people ignorant of the facts, evidence, and logical conclusions is at the heart of modern conservatism and is why so few Republicans can argue intelligently.

    • JD

      September 3, 2021 at 6:46 am

      Or their comments devolve into a childish rant of name calling to deflect they have little to no arguments.

      The current crop of Republicans don’t look at others as political rivals, but as enemies and are willing to do “whatever” it takes to win. This is the slide to doing undemocratic things – to win at all costs. They’re so far from the respectable party of the Gipper it’s not only sad, but dangerous to our democracy.

  • PeterH

    September 3, 2021 at 12:22 am

    Great reporting Mr. Scheckner!

    From this article:

    “…………The likely reason, ADL personnel said: Of 687 law enforcement agencies in Florida, just 452 participated in the FBI’s hate crime reporting program, and just 54 — 12% of participating agencies and 8% of all existing ones — reported at least one incident.…”

    It would be interesting to understand ‘why’ some Florida law enforcement agencies participate in reporting hate crimes and others do not.

    • JD

      September 3, 2021 at 9:23 am

      It would be interesting to understand the differences and I’m sure this is complex.

      Outsider speculation is lack of awareness to properly identify hate crimes among officers and agencies. Or perhaps charging as a hate crime is harder for conviction because there may be more burden of proof (penalties are higher for them) so it’s not done as much (and thus not reported). Or simply they are actually down – higher penalties contribute to thinking twice and it is a pandemic.

  • just sayin

    September 3, 2021 at 9:41 am

    A better headline would have been “Anti-defamation League, whose money and relevance depends on hate crimes, insists the data about decreasing hate crimes can’t be true.”

Comments are closed.


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