Presented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Hate crimes in the U.S. increased last year to their highest levels in more than a decade. Now, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking the public’s help in reporting hate crimes and keeping Alaska safe.
“It is critical to report hate crimes not only to show support and get help for victims, but also to send a clear message that the community will not tolerate these kinds of crimes,” said Antony Jung, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Anchorage Field Office.
With hate crimes -- acts motivated in full or in part by bias -- on the rise, here’s how everyday Alaskans can identify a hate crime and help protect individuals and communities.
Identifying a hate crime
A hate crime is defined as a violent or property crime “motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” according to the FBI.
“Typically, a hate crime involves a traditional offense, like murder, assault, arson, or vandalism, with the added element of bias,” Jung said.
Hate crimes have a wide-ranging impact on communities, as they represent more than an attack on an individual.
“They threaten and intimidate an entire community,” Jung said.
Some incidents may start small and escalate into more frequent or serious attacks.
“No matter how small or trivial an incident might appear to be, it’s important to the whole community that it’s acknowledged and reported,” Jung said.
When Alaskans report hate crimes, they are helping to “build a clear picture of what’s happening,” Jung said. Patterns and trends can emerge that help law enforcement protect and educate local communities.
“When you report a potential hate crime, you might help to prevent these incidents from happening to someone else,” Jung said.
Hate crime trends and potential underreporting
The FBI’s role in investigating hate crimes increased after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the agency has been gathering hate crime data since 1991 as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting system.
Over the decades, several pieces of federal legislation furthered prosecution and reporting of hate crimes; notably, in 2009, The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act expanded the existing hate law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and expanded the federal government’s ability to prosecute, among other changes.
In 2020, hate crimes were at their highest levels in more than a decade. According to recently updated statistics, last year 8,052 incidents impacting 11,126 victims were reported to the FBI.
Of these, more than 60 percent of victims were targeted because of the offender’s bias toward race, ethnicity, or ancestry. Twenty percent were targeted due to bias against sexual orientation, and in 13 percent the offender was biased toward the victim’s religion.
After reports of increased violence and anti-Asian discrimination increased dramatically, Congress passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in May, which funnels resources to hate crime prevention.
Even with the increased reports, hate crimes are widely considered to be underreported. The Department of Justice estimates roughly 250,000 hate crimes were committed between 2004 and 2015, the majority of which weren’t reported to law enforcement.
In Alaska, reported cases remain consistently low: Nine hate crimes were reported across the entire state last year.
“Annual reported hate crimes in Alaska typically number in the single digits or low double digits,” Jung said. “These low numbers are indicative of potential underreporting.”
There are many reasons hate crimes are believed to be underreported. The FBI notes that victims may not be comfortable making the report. Reporting hate crimes is also voluntary for law enforcement agencies, and with a lack of data comes more challenges in identifying and addressing the issue.
Jung said the FBI hopes to “encourage victims and witnesses to come forward, which will strengthen our ability to solve hate crimes, bring criminals to justice, and provide support to victims.”
How to report a hate crime
To report a hate crime, file a report as soon as possible with your local police department or the Alaska State Troopers. Then, follow up the report with a call to the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.
Even if you’re unsure whether you’ve witnessed a hate crime, you can still report it to law enforcement, said Jung.
The FBI is the lead investigative agency for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes, and it also works with other law enforcement partners even when federal charges are not pursued.
“All Alaskans should be able to thrive in Alaskan communities without fear that their skin color, what they believe, or who they love, makes them a target for violence,” said Jung.
Presented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If you believe you may have information about a hate crime, contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or tips.fbi.gov.
This story was produced by the sponsored content department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with the FBI. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.