The number of hate crime incidents reported in the United States jumped by 17 percent last year, the largest increase since 2001 when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 fueled a surge in attacks on Americans of Muslim and Arab ancestry.
U.S. law enforcement agencies reported a total of 7,175 hate crimes in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016 and the third consecutive annual increase, the FBI said in its annual hate crime report released on Tuesday. About 5,000 of the incidents were listed as crimes against persons such as assault and intimidation.
The report showed a doubling of anti-Arab hate crimes and double-digit increase in anti-Semitic incidents.
Recently-installed Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker called the report “a call to action” and vowed that “we will heed that call.”
“I am particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, which were already the most common religious hate crimes in the United States, that is well documented in this report,” Whitaker said in a statement.“The American people can be assured that this Department has already taken significant and aggressive actions against these crimes and that we will vigorously and effectively defend their rights.”
The FBI defines hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
The vast majority of hate crimes are prosecuted in state courts, with federal prosecutors typically charging between one and two dozen defendants for hate crimes under various federal hate crime statutes.In 2018, the Justice Department filed 22 hate crime cases, according to a spokeswoman.
The surge in hate crime in 2017 was largely driven by racial and religious bias.
Race remained the largest driver of hate crimes in 2017, with 4,832 incidents motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry.Nearly half of all racially-motivated incidents involved African Americans.Anti-Hispanic or anti-Latino bias accounted for nearly 11 percent of the race based incidents. Anti-Arab hate crimes, though accounting for a fraction of all race-based hate crimes, doubled to 102 incidents.
Religion was the second biggest motivator of hate crimes, with 1,679 incidents reported by law enforcement agencies. At more than 900 incidents, anti-Semitic hate crimes accounted for 58 percent of all religious-motivated hate crimes.
The number of anti-Muslim hate crimes fell to 273 incidents from 314 incidents in 2016 but the level remained well above historic averages.In 2015 and 2016, anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by nearly 90 percent, fueled by a backlash to terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States and anti-Muslim political rhetoric.
“The scourge of hate crime continues to harm communities in cities and states across the country,”said Maya Berry, the executive director of the Arab American Institute.“The FBI data confirms the reality we all know: hate is increasing in America.”
The FBI report is believed to undercount the true extent of hate crime in the United States.That is in part because the report is based on voluntary submissions made by law enforcement agencies, most of which usually don’t report hate incidents.Last year, more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies took part in the FBI data collection, but only 2,000 agencies actually reported hate crimes.
In a statement, the Arab American institute noted the report left out three of “the most horrific acts of bias-motivated violence” reported last year, including the August 12 killing of Heather Heyer at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; the fatal stabbing of two men who tried to confront a man shouting racial slurs a hijab-wearing woman and her friend on a train in Portland; and the shooting of two Indian men in Olathe, Kansas.
“The FBI data, in what is missing from it, also demonstrates the hate crime reporting system we have in place is failing to respond adequately to hate crime, and thus inform fully the policy remedies we must make to improve our response to hate,” Berry said in a statement.
The report for 2017 came two weeks after a man killed 11 people and wounded six oth