Hate crime reports in the U.S. spiked 17% last year: FBI

Law enforcement officials investigate an explosion at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington, Minn., on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. David Joles/Star Tribune via AP

Law enforcement officials reported 17 percent more hate crimes in 2017 than the previous year, the FBI said in a study released Tuesday.

It is not clear from the study if hate crimes are on the rise or if the increase is because law enforcement agencies have stepped up reporting such crimes. The FBI said 1,000 additional agencies provided hate crime statistics compared to previous years.

In fact, last month Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced an initiative to improve the collecting of hate crime data. Mr. Rosenstein said hate crimes often go unnoticed at the federal level after reviewing the 2016 data when 88 percent of law enforcement agencies told the FBI they had zero such crimes that year.

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All told, the FBI said 7,175 hate crimes were reported in 2017, up from 6,121 in the year prior. The most common incidents, roughly 60 percent, were motivated by race bias. That was followed by religion at nearly 21 percent and sexual orientation at roughly 16 percent.

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Roughly 5,000 of the crimes reported were crimes against people such as intimidation or assault. Another 3,000 were property crimes such as vandalism, burglary or robbery. Some hate crimes were classified as both crimes against people and crimes against property.

The FBI’s report was released just weeks after a mass shooting left 11 people dead at a Pittsburgh synagogue. An increased number of incidents targeting Jewish people were reported in 2017, accounting for 58 percent of the 1,749 anti-religion hate crimes. That’s up from 54 percent in 2016, when there were 1,538 anti-religion hate crimes.

Acting Attorney Mathew Whitaker said he was particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

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“The American people can be assured this Department has already taken significant and aggressive actions against these crimes and that we will vigorously and effectively defend their rights,” Mr. Whitaker said in a statement.

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The Justice Department last month unveiled a new “one-stop portal” website to for local law enforcement and the public to report hate crimes to federal officials. It also offers resources such as training materials, research report and statistics to help people combat hate crimes.

“Simply because hate crimes are not reported does not mean they are not happening,” Mr. Rosenstein said at the time. “Together we can find ways to improve reporting of hate crimes that will allow us to more effectively target our resources to where they are most needed.”

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