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New Hampshire reported an uptick in hate crimes in 2021, according to FBI data

Several rallies were held around New Hampshire for racial and social justice, including an anti-racism event at Greeley Park in Nashua, N.H.
Gaby Lozada
An anti-racism event at Greeley Park in Nashua in May 2021.

New Hampshire law enforcement documented 34 hate crimes in 2021, a jump from 19 reported hate crimes the previous year, according to newly released data from the FBI.

Of the hate crimes reported, 16 incidents involved destruction of property or vandalism, while 13 involved intimidation. Nearly half of the targets of the crimes were Black residents, while eight reported crimes were motivated by religion, and seven by sexual orientation, according to the dataset.

The figures, released last week, do not detail individual incidents, but they do provide a breakdown of incidents by reporting agency.

The FBI defines hate crimes as violent criminal acts against a person or property that are motivated by bias against a race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity.

“Hate crimes are a small piece of the hate a community experiences. So there can be many instances of hate in a community that doesn’t rise to the level of crime.”
Peggy Shukur, interim regional director for the Anti-Defamation League’s New England region

National data showed a large drop in hate crimes in 2021, but the figures are considered misleading because a substantial number of law enforcement agencies — including large departments in New York and California — did not include hate crime data last year in the FBI’s newly overhauled system. The U.S. Department of Justicehas acknowledged that the totals for 2021 are not reflective of the true number of hate crimes nationally.

In New Hampshire, 208 law enforcement agencies out of 220 submitted data for 2021 into the new National Incident-Based Reporting System, which collects more information about each crime than a previous system. In the year prior, 193 of 210 agencies participated, according to the FBI’s online database.

Along with expressing caution about incomplete data from the FBI, advocates say no single report can capture the levels of hate group activity in a region.

“Hate crimes are a small piece of the hate a community experiences,” said Peggy Shukur, interim regional director for the Anti-Defamation League’s New England region. “So there can be many instances of hate in a community that doesn’t rise to the level of crime.”

Public protests, pamphleting or hanging banners with messages of hate are often protected by free speech laws, and can intimidate members of a community without breaking any laws, she said.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s office said its Civil Rights Unit has investigated a higher volume of cases involving potential civil rights violations, with two enforcement actions in 2021. The office also works to train police and prosecutors on how to evaluate if “criminal conduct rises to the level of a hate crime.”

“The lines between what may be protected speech and what is unlawful conduct, criminal conduct, or a violation of a person’s civil rights are fine,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement. “Any person who believes they have been the target of hate-motivated conduct is encouraged to report it to the Civil Rights Unit.”

Officials added that it can be difficult to identify and arrest suspects in acts of vandalism or property damage due to the lag time between the potential crime and the incident being reported.

In a statement, the Boston division of the FBI, which includes New Hampshire in its jurisdiction, said that “hate crimes are not only an attack on the victim, they are meant to threaten and intimidate an entire community.” The agency said it makes investigating such acts a high priority.

In 2021, the FBI’s Boston division announced a public awareness campaign encouraging the reporting of hate crimes, and said it was “enhancing its existing investigative resources.” The agency noted that “when it comes to reporting hate crimes specifically, some folks are afraid to come forward because of a fear or distrust of law enforcement, fear due to their immigration status, or a fear of retribution from their attacker.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.
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