Press Release

Senator Gillibrand, Representative Meng & Advocates Lead Call For Action To Address The Underreporting Of Hate Crimes

Mar 20, 2023

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Grace Meng call on the Department of Justice to provide an overview of National Incident-Based Reporting System compliance by law enforcement agencies throughout the nation

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-Queens) were joined by community leaders in calling for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to look into the compliance of law enforcement agencies with the national system to report data on hate crimes.

Senator Gillibrand and Representative Meng led their colleagues, Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA), Dan Goldman (D-NY), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), in sending a bipartisan letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting an overview of the status of National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) compliance among law enforcement agencies across the country. The letter also requests recommendations to increase participation in order to ensure the accuracy of future federal hate crimes data.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2021 Hate Crimes Statistics report, originally released late last year, found that a significant number of law enforcement agencies had failed to report hate crimes through the FBI’s NIBRS data collection system, resulting in unreliable data and artificially low numbers of hate incidents as compared to previous years. 2021 was the first year that the FBI fully transitioned from its original reporting mechanism, the Summary Reporting System (SRS), to NIBRS. While SRS allowed agencies to aggregate totals of several categories of crime, NIBRS captures greater specificity and context about each individual crime, including victim and offender demographics, location and timing, and information on separate offenses within the crime incident. Bringing law enforcement agencies into compliance with NIBRS will help capture accurate and timely crime data that both local and federal law enforcement agencies can use to evaluate and identify solutions to mitigate further hate crimes and incidents.

“Keeping up-to-date data for these incidents is imperative for law enforcement agencies to be able to do the work needed to combat hate crimes,” said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “While we commend the steps local law enforcement and the Department of Justice have taken in responding to such incidents, reporting, collecting and maintaining the most accurate data available is crucial in evaluating and responding to hate-related crimes as well as keeping our neighborhoods safe from such reprehensible attacks. Hate has no place in New York and it takes everyone, working together, to defeat it.”

“There is no place for hate in New York or anywhere in our country, and to help combat hate crimes, we need accurate and updated data to help law enforcement keep our communities safe from these despicable and heinous acts,” said Congresswoman Grace Meng. “We look forward to receiving answers from the Justice Department to better understand the status of law enforcement agencies transitioning to NIBRS, and I thank Senator Gillibrand for partnering with me on this crucial effort to better protect people from bias crimes.”

“I wrote the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act to improve coordination between law enforcement at every level in responding to hate crimes, and the data shows that this important work is proceeding,” said Congressman Don Beyer. “At the same time, the failure of so many police departments to report 2021 hate crime data using the modernized NIBRS system remains very concerning when the data we have indicates that hate crimes are increasing. Until that situation is improved, policymakers and law enforcement will lack meaningful information needed to fight anti-AAPI hate, anti-Semitism, and white supremacist violence.” 

“Senator Gillibrand, Congresswoman Meng and members of New York’s Congressional delegation are advancing crucial work to confront hate crimes and the fear they cause in our communities,” said Karol V. Mason, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Their efforts will ensure that our researchers, practitioners and the public have a vital tool — accurate and robust data — to inform solutions, including victims’ services, that support safety for all the residents of a community.”

“We cannot allow antisemitism, a pernicious hatred based on conspiracy theory and fear mongering, to metastasize threateningnot only the Jewish community but the fabric of our democracy,” said Elana Broitman, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America. “We believe government has a critical role to play which is why Jewish Federations applaud Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman Meng for leading this call for action, and have supported the passage of the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act, advocate for annual NO HATE appropriations, and are working every day with local law enforcement across the country to accurately identify, prevent, and respond to antisemitism – especially against individuals who are more visibly Jewish and likely to be harmed.” 

“Anti-Asian hate is widespread and bias crimes continue to impact all marginalized communities at alarming levels. It has always been difficult for victims to come forward and report what has happened to them,” said Asian American Federation Executive Director Jo-Ann Yoo. “What shouldn’t be difficult for our communities is getting accurate insights when our community members do report on what has happened to them. We’re grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s and Congresswoman Meng’s leadership in inquiring on this matter and look forward to better compliance when it comes to reporting on the hatred impacting our community.”

“The Asian American Foundation (TAAF) joins Sen. Gillibrand and Rep. Meng in calling for accurate data collection of hate crime incidents,” said Norman Chen, CEO of The Asian American Foundation. “These issues have been decades long and we fear that without immediate action, we will continue to have incomplete data. Without the full picture, we cannot build effective strategies to protect our communities from future hate crimes. Impacted communities need to see full participation by law-enforcement agencies with the National Incident-Based Reporting System. In alignment with WHIAANHPI, TAAF urges DOJ to condition federal funding grants on law enforcement participation in the collections and reporting program.”

“We applaud Senator Gillibrand and Representative Meng for writing this letter and bringinglight to this critical issue,” said Gideon Taylor, Executive Vice President and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. “It is monumentally important to the Jewish community and all New Yorkers that hate crimes are reported fairly and correctly by the Department of Justice. JCRC-NY stands ready to work with Senator Gillibrand and Representative Meng in calling for the Department of Justice to look into their compliance in reporting hate crimes.”

“Drag Out The Vote is encouraged that Senator Gillibrand, Congresswoman Meng, and members of Congress are speaking out in light of increasingly violent anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric,” said Chris Diaz, Executive Director of Drag Out The Vote. “The culture wars have never ended even though the majority of Americans are pro-LGBTQIA+, are supportive of our trans siblings, and believe in tackling social inequality. We need our elected officials to continue to speak out like this and furthermore we need Attorney General Garland and Attorneys General across the country to combat the rising tide of hate crimes and violence aimed at the LGBTQIA+ and other minority and underrepresented communities.”

“The Muslim American Society of NY is honored to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the diverse array of community leaders to support the impactful efforts of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and US Representative Grace Meng to combat hate crimes across the U.S.,” said Taher Abdelhadi, Executive Director, Muslim American Society of New York. “We must remain resolute until people of all ethnicities and faiths can live amongst each other in safety and tranquility, forming inclusive communities for the millions of families that call this land home. God willing, we will achieve that dream together.”

“As the leader of an organization dedicated to supporting immigrant survivors of gender-based violence, we wholeheartedly endorse and applaud Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Grace Meng’s efforts to call on the Department of Justice to provide a comprehensive overview of hate crime compliance through the National Incident-Based Reporting System,” said Jeehae Fischer, Executive Director of the Korean American Family Service Center. “It is crucial that law enforcement agencies nationwide adopt a unified and transparent approach to addressing hate crimes to ensure the safety and well-being of all communities, including the most vulnerable among us. Noncompliance with reporting standards undermines the integrity of data collection and obscures the true extent of hate crimes in our nation. Accurate and consistent reporting is vital in informing policy decisions, allocating resources, and fostering a culture of accountability. Only then can we work collectively towards eradicating hate, prejudice, and violence in all its forms.”

“MCN thanks Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Grace Meng and all MOC that have drafted and signed this letter. In July 2022, MCN published a hate crime report that surveyed Muslim New Yorkers on their experience with hate crimes. We found that 76% of Muslim New Yorkers we surveyed witnessed a hate crime and 46% were victims of a hate crime. It was equally devastating to hear from community members that majority of times their experiences have been minimized by LEAs and not reported. Hate crimes are a serious threat to faith based and minority communities and must be adequately reported by LEAs for the right preventative measures to be taken. Since 9/11 Muslims have been wrongfully associated with terrorism and targeted with verbal abuse, harassment, threats, physical assault, and vandalism. More alarming, both MCN and other national surveys, found that half of school age Muslim youth have been bullied and harassed based on their faith. Hate crimes are a serious issue plaguing our communities and must be prevented from the micro to the macro levels. While we are grateful for all the resources that have been allocated towards fighting hate crimes, we kindly ask the DOJ to honor this request and provide information on local LEAs compliance with NIBRS including agencies that remain in noncompliance and potential impact of noncompliance in future Hate Crimes,” said AjiFanta Marenah, Advocacy Program Manager, Muslim Community Network (MCN).

Senator Gillibrand’s and Representative Meng’s call for compliance of law enforcement agencies with the national system to report hate crimes is also supported by Asian American Federation, Chinese-American Planning Council, CACF – Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, The Korean American Family Service Center, OCA Asian Pacific American Advocates New York Chapter, The Asian American Foundation, Garden of Hope, Hispanic Federation, Rainbow Access Initiative, Inc., Equality New York, Drag Out The Vote, Muslim Community Network, UJA-Federation of New York, New York Immigration Coalition, Translatinx Network, Albany Damien Center, Asian American Business Development Center, Jewish Federations of North America, Muslim American Society of New York, The Ali Forney Center, The Sikh Coalition, and Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.

Senator Gillibrand has been a longtime advocate of legislation that addresses hate-crimes, having been an original co-sponsor of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. Senator Gillibrand also proudly cosponsored the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, which created grants for state and local governments to implement the NIBRS. Senator Gillibrand has also successfully pushed to include funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which supports religious and community-based organizations most at risk of terror and hate attacks.

The full letter can be found here and below:

Dear Attorney General Garland,

We write to request the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provide information on the status of compliance among state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in reporting hate crimes data by the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

The rising prevalence of bias-related hate crimes continues to instill fear in communities across the nation, particularly within communities of color and faith-based communities. The tragedy of the May 2022 Buffalo shooting, which killed 10 Black people and injured three other people, was exacerbated by the perpetrator’s targeted and racist intent. Earlier this month in Queens, New York, a mother and her son were verbally and physically assaulted in an anti-Asian hate crime incident. In September 2021, multiple Hispanic day laborers were lured and attacked by a Long Island resident who targeted locations that were known to be popular with immigrants. The LGBTQ+ community is also a target of hate, as evidenced by the violent attack on two men in Brooklyn in September 2021 where two individuals made homophobic slurs and ultimately physically attacked the pair.

We have also seen a sharp rise in religiously motivated hate-related incidents. In one of the many recent antisemitic attacks on the streets of New York, last December, a father and his son, both wearing yarmulkes, were assaulted with BB pellets on Staten Island in a crime that came under investigation by NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force. NYPD has also reported multiple instances of hate against Muslim women wearing hijabs, as was in the case of a woman in Queens who was both verbally and physically assaulted for not removing her hijab in June 2021. These are just a few examples of the multitude of bias-related hate crimes we are seeing in our communities.

In response to the rise of hate crimes and rhetoric, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress took decisive action to combat hate crimes by passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, led by Congresswoman Meng and Senator Hirono. We commend the Department’s commitment to combating and mitigating the rise of hate crimes as outlined in the department memorandum from May 27, 2021.

While the federal government has taken meaningful steps to respond to the rise of hate-related attacks and violence, the collection and analyses of accurate data is critical in studying, responding to, and preventing future incidents. We were alarmed to find that while the 2021 Hate Crimes Statistics report, originally published in December 2022, initially signaled a decrease in the number of hate crimes, the report also indicated that the data “cannot reliably be compared across years” due to a significant number of LEAs not submitting their crime data to NIBRS.

In the pursuit of more accurate data, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the FBI developed the NIBRS system, a progression from the summary reporting system (SRS). While NIBRS has been in place since 1991, the FBI announced in 2015 that the bureau would retire SRS by January 1, 2021, effectively marking a full transition to NIBRS. Underreporting by LEAs has been a consistent barrier for accurate federal data collection, especially with this reporting transition. For example, in 2015, only 6,648 out of over 18,000 LEAs submitted NIBRS data.3While there have been improvements in the number of LEAs reporting through NIBRS, the 2021 FBI Hate Crimes Statistics data showed only 11,834 agencies reported their data, a decrease from 15,834 agencies reporting the year prior.

The FBI estimated that it would take as long as two years for individual LEAs to come into compliance with NIBRS, citing that the conversion may require financial and technical assistance.4 To that end, Congress has appropriated grant funds to help LEAs transition. In addition, from FY2018 to FY2022, the Bureau of Justice Assistance required recipients of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) who were not NIBRS-compliant to dedicate three percent of JAG award amounts towards becoming certified with NIBRS. The FY2023 consolidated appropriations package also included $10 million for programs authorized under the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, including grant funding for LEAs to implement NIBRS.

While we commend the Department for providing supplemental statistics on March 13, 2023 to bolster the original 2021 hate crimes dataset by accommodating late crime data submitted through SRS, the transition to NIBRS remains incomplete. Without further action to encourage compliance with NIBRS, we fear we will continue to see incomplete and inaccurate accountings of hate crimes in future years. While we know that many hate crimes still go unreported to law enforcement, we recognize that NIBRS has the potential to serve as a scientifically useful tool for the federal government and the national law enforcement community to evaluate and prevent future hate-related incidents and crime. Getting accurate data is critical in our efforts to keep our communities safe from future hate crimes.

Therefore, we respectfully request the Department provide an overview of the current state of LEAs in compliance with NIBRS, including the number and regional distribution of agencies that remain in noncompliance. The overview should outline what is required to be deemed “NIBRS compliant,” existing obstacles for LEAs to come into compliance, the Department’s own estimates on when they expect full compliance, underlying causes of underreporting, and recommendations to increase the number of LEAs participating in NIBRS. The overview should also report on the potential impact of noncompliance in future Hate Crimes Statistics reports. We appreciate the Department’s attention to this request by providing a response by April 20, 2023.

Thank you for your continued leadership and careful consideration of our concerns and request.