Anti-Asian hate crimes rose 73% last year, updated FBI data says

By Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News |

Graphic videos of attacks on Asian elders and a shooting that killed six women of Asian descent at spas in the Atlanta area in March reopened national conversations on Asian American civil rights and led many to ask what it takes to constitute a hate crime. They can be hard to prosecute, experts say, and the laws that define them can vary largely from state to state. 

David LaBahn, president of the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, told NBC News in 2018 that proving underlying bias or hate is tricky. “You’ve got to drill down in the background of that individual,” he said.

There's also the tendency for Asian Americans to avoid reporting crimes in general. A survey by AAPI Data showed that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were the least likely to report hate incidents compared to other groups. And when it is reported, it largely falls to individual law enforcement agencies to translate their data to the federal level. 

“FBI hate crime data represents the tip of the iceberg and understates the magnitude of hate crime in America,” Sim J. Singh, national advocacy manager of The Sikh Coalition, told NBC News in 2017. “The only way to bridge the data gap is for law enforcement agencies to adopt mandatory hate crime reporting.”