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JACL Calls for Better Hate Crime Tracking and Response

WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League issued the following statement on Nov. 21.


Last week the FBI released its hate crimes data for 2017. The numbers demonstrate a disturbing and consistent upward trend.

In 2017 there were 7,175 bias crimes, which targeted 8,493 victims based on their race and sexual orientation. This was an increase of 17.2% from 2016 incidents of 6,121. This also followed consecutive-year increases from 2015 and 2014 incidents as well.

Anti-Asian incidents increased 20.4% from 137 incidents in 2016 to 165 incidents in 2017. Pacific Islanders doubled from nine to 18 incidents. Documented acts of anti-Semitism increased an alarming 37% from 684 to 938 and anti-Sikh incidents nearly tripled from seven to 20 incidents.

As alarming as these increases appear to be, they seem to tell only a part of the story, and that is what is more concerning. Several well-documented hate crimes that happened in 2017 do not appear to be captured in these numbers. The murders of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va., Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche in Portland, Ore., and Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe, Kan., are all missing from the data reported by the FBI.

It is clear that actual incidents of hate crimes are much higher than what is being reported by the FBI. Several jurisdictions, and even whole states still do not report their data. With the knowledge that even under-reported data is increasing significantly, we must as a country confront this increasing tide of hate and discrimination.

We also know that many crimes against minority communities go unreported due to perceived indifference or worse from law enforcement. The inadequacy of this reported data does little to alleviate those concerns. Choosing not to report the crimes does not mean that they have not occurred and lives have not been impacted severely.

Rhetoric and policies from our government leaders should not be inflaming and emboldening the perpetrators of these crimes. Law enforcement must act aggressively to prevent and prosecute these crimes against individuals and groups from racial, ethnic, religious, LGBTQIA+, disability, and gender based communities solely because of their identity.

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