SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The FBI released their new hate crimes report this week, revealing concerning trends also reflected in California and the Bay Area. KRON 4’s Stephanie Lin sat down exclusively with FBI San Francisco’s Special Agent in Charge, Robert Tripp for the FBI’s first televised interview addressing the new data.
Portions of the Q&A have been edited for clarity and brevity.
KRON4: Walk us through the findings of this report. What is the FBI seeing on a nationwide level?
Tripp: The report shows unfortunately hate crimes are still a nationwide issue. Last year, police reported 7,303 hate crimes occurred in the United States. Unfortunately, we are seeing an equal prevalence here in the Bay Area. But nationally speaking, the most common motivation for hate crimes was an anti-ethnic or anti-racial bias. Just over 66% of all of those 7,300 crimes did have that anti-racial or anti-ethnic bias. And that’s something we see here in California.
KRON4: What statewide trends has the FBI noticed?
Tripp: Statewide trends are closely to what we are seeing nationwide. Here in CA, most of the crimes reported in 2021 involved a racial or ethnic bias. In California last year, there were 1,763 reported by local authorities to the California DOJ. Here in the Bay Area […] we see a slightly higher percentage of AAPI victims and LGBTQ community victims, and I believe that reflects the diversity of Bay area communities.
KRON4: You’re also seeing an increase in violent attacks in broad daylight, is that correct?
Tripp: Yes, we are. It’s a significant point for us […] crimes that are committed in broad daylight […] because we often see more witnesses to these crimes.
KRON4: What’s driving these reported hate incidents?
Tripp: I would hesitate to speculate on motives on why people are committing hate crimes, but we do know that hate crimes have been a traditionally underreported phenomenon. People are victimized by subjects committing hate crimes, they are intimidated. They don’t want to report what is happened to them. Many of our victims come from immigrant communities, and those people in the past may have had an unfortunate experience with an authority figure or law enforcement, and that intimidates them from reporting. We’re hoping people come forward when they know this is something of tremendous interest to the FBI.
KRON4: What is the message to victims who are afraid of retaliation if they report?
Tripp: The message we want to give, is freedom from fear of attacks, freedom from fear of intimidation, is not just an American civil right, it’s a fundamental human right. The FBI treats hate crimes very seriously. And we treat our victims in accordance with our court values of compassion and respect. Anyone who comes to us, we will listen to what you have to say, we will take your story, and we will try to help you find justice.
KRON4: How can people report a hate crime? Who handles cases, local or federal law enforcement?
Tripp: We here in the FBI offices work very closely with our local partners. Our most important guidance to the public is if you’re in danger, please call 911. But if you’re not in immediate danger, we do ask the public if they are a victim of a hate crime or if you witnessed a hate crime, to contact the FBI. We have a well-developed intake system, we have operators that can interact with victims in multiple languages, and we also have a well well-developed internet-based tip-taking system. So if people dial 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submit a report via Tips.FBI.gov, the FBI will know about this.
When we deal with local departments, we will deconflict with them, make sure we are not duplicating their efforts, and talk with both local police departments and prosecutors on what’s the best venue to pursue police activity.
KRON4: Why is it so important that people speak up and report to law enforcement?
Tripp: For the FBI, hate crimes are a national threat priority. The better data we have, the better we are able to push resources to address the specific threats. We are always looking for accurate data because that helps us with our resourcing. But we have very timely data from our conversations with both community groups and with law enforcement. Having better aggregated data, that helps us tailor our message to specific community groups, and to forecast where the threat is coming in years to come.
KRON4: How accurate are the numbers in the national hate crime report?
Tripp: In the nationwide statistics that were released, there is underreporting. This year was the first year the FBI transitioned from the old uniformed crime reports, or UCR system to a much more accurate system called the national incident-based reporting system, or NIBRS. Unfortunately in that transition, there are technical requirements that departments have to put into place and that is very much unfortunately a work in progress. However, I do want to emphasize the NIBRS data that the FBI collects is only one data point in our understanding in the national prevalence of hate crimes.
We’re very confident hate crimes are on the rise. We see that in our daily conversations with our police departments, we see that in our community outreach, and statistics published by the California Department of Justice, which did indeed see a 33% rise between 2020 and 2021.
KRON4: What is the FBI doing in response to these latest numbers?
Tripp: We’ve devoted more agent time and financial resources to combat hate crime, we’ve designated hate crime as a national threat priority, and that allows us to bring more resources nationally and locally to address the problem.
KRON4: What’s the toughest thing about to trying to prosecute a hate crime?
Tripp: Prosecuting a hate crime in the federal courts is difficult. For most of the crimes that we deal with, we have to prove two things. We have to prove a fact pattern, that a crime took place, and that it took place willfully. That it wasn’t an accident or happenstance. For a hate crime, we have to prove one thing else: the motivation. And getting inside someone’s head, that can be a real challenge. But we think it’s worth the effort.
We think a victim telling his and her story is the right of the victim and is the way for the victim to obtain justice. This does explain why we do see a lot of prosecutions take place at the state level. The state has more flexibility in looking at violations other than the hate crime, and while that is an imperfect solution, it does provide some justice to the victim.
KRON4: Does the FBI plan to run more education campaigns, and hire agents that come from more diverse backgrounds to encourage future reporting?
Tripp: We are planning a very aggressive community outreach program. Different sources of data is important to our understanding of the program, and one of the key sources is our community contacts. Diversity is a core value of the FBI, and we pay very close attention to that in our recruitment and hiring.
**If you are a victim of a hate crime, or witnessed a hate incident, you can get in touch with the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI, or submit a report in any language at Tips.FBI.gov.**