Did Brexit increase hate crimes? The answer is still yes.
So, hate crimes are in the news again after the Home Office’s release of the new data on October 17th. Thus began an avalanche of news stories about the alleged increase and its relationship with Brexit: Business Insider, the BBC, Al Jazeera, The Independent. And, along with it, all the debate that proceeded last year’s release as well. This primarily revolved around two controversies: whether it actually did happen; and, if it did, whether this represented an increase in reporting or actual crimes. I wrote on this exactly a year to the day, and argued that Brexit almost certainly increased hate crimes. It was obvious descriptively, but a couple of rough statistical tests showed it to be beyond any reasonable doubt. I did this on daily and monthly data. Brexit had a huge impact on the number of hate crimes.
The new release gives us another shot at the same question, with a few more months — up until August 2017, a full year after the referendum. So, here’s how it looks descriptively.
Once again, it is obvious that hate crimes increased after Brexit. As I suspected a year ago, this was a flash in the pan and didn’t sustain — it dropped to around the average of the last few years. However, it increased again, spiking around (and presumably including) the attack on Finsbury Park mosque, to highs that exceeded even the post-Brexit spike.
It is redundant, in light of the graph and the results of the last blog I wrote on this, to run more tests, but I repeated the same ones I did last year. They once again show that Brexit increased hate crimes. Actually, with the additional months, it is responsible for an increase of 1454 crimes rather than the 1603 using last year’s data. But the plot following a regression discontinuity test is much more stark. Basic conclusion: Brexit increased hate crimes, probably less than I suggested last year, but with much more certainty.
Whether this represents a ‘real’ increase — as in, actual crimes — rather than just reporting is impossible to tell from this data. Perhaps convictions would be a better indication, but I have a hunch that some would find a way to discredit even those.
Stella Creasy, a Labour MP, said of the new stats: “While some of this rise may be attributable to improved reporting methods, there can be no doubt the Brexit vote has had an impact.” That, to me, is the fairest and only conclusion possible.
What should be more concerning is the steady increase over the years. The high of 2013 was the same as the low of 2017, and not much higher than the low of 2016.
I ended the last blog by saying “the referendum has shown that it does not necessarily take much to spark an increase in hate crimes. Other catalysts are possible. And it’s important that, when the next one comes, it is much harder to translate these beliefs into actions.” Unfortunately, media and governmental rhetoric didn’t ease off; polarisation didn’t reduce. The terror attacks of Manchester and Finsbury Park were those catalysts again.