FBI re­ports hate crimes rose for sec­ond year in a row, in 2016

Medicine Hat News - - UP FRONT -

WASH­ING­TON Hate crimes rose for the sec­ond straight year in 2016, with in­creases in at­tacks mo­ti­vated by bias against blacks, Jews, Mus­lims and LGBT peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to FBI statis­tics re­leased Mon­day.

There were more than 6,100 hate crimes last year, up about 5 per cent over the pre­vi­ous year. In 2015 and 2016, that num­ber was driven by crimes against peo­ple be­cause of their race or eth­nic­ity.

More than half the 4,229 racially mo­ti­vated crimes were against black peo­ple, while 20 per cent were against whites, the re­port shows. And Jews were tar­geted in more than half the 1,538 crimes that were mo­ti­vated by re­li­gion. Crimes fu­eled by bias against LGBT peo­ple rose from 203 in 2015 to 234 last year.

The yearly re­port is the most com­pre­hen­sive ac­count­ing of hate crimes in the U.S. But au­thor­i­ties have long warned it is in­com­plete, in part be­cause it is based on vol­un­tary re­port­ing by po­lice agen­cies across the coun­try.

The num­bers likely re­flect an uptick recorded by civil rights groups in ha­rass­ment and van­dal­ism tar­get­ing Mus­lims, Jews, blacks and oth­ers amid the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which in­cluded sharp rhetoric from Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump and oth­ers against im­mi­grants, es­pe­cially Mus­lims. There were 307 crimes against Mus­lims in 2016, up from 257 in 2015, which at the time was the high­est num­ber since the af­ter­math of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

In re­leas­ing the fig­ures, the FBI said hate crimes re­main the “num­ber one in­ves­tiga­tive pri­or­ity” of its civil rights unit and pledged to con­tinue col­lect­ing data on the prob­lem. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions has said it would be a top fo­cus of his Jus­tice Depart­ment.

On Mon­day, Ses­sions said the Jus­tice Depart­ment is await­ing a full re­port from a task force on steps it can take to im­prove train­ing for prose­cu­tors and in­ves­ti­ga­tors, boost data col­lec­tion on hate crimes and part­ner with lo­cal of­fi­cials and com­mu­ni­ties. In the mean­time, Ses­sions said, the depart­ment can con­tinue to ag­gres­sively pros­e­cute peo­ple who vi­o­late the civil rights of oth­ers.

“The Depart­ment of Jus­tice is com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that in­di­vid­u­als can live with­out fear of be­ing a vic­tim of vi­o­lent crime based on who they are, what they be­lieve, or how they wor­ship,” Ses­sions said in a state­ment.

Ad­vo­cates said they can’t ad­e­quately ad­dress the prob­lem with­out a fuller un­der­stand­ing of its scope.

“There's a dan­ger­ous dis­con­nect be­tween the ris­ing prob­lem of hate crimes and the lack of cred­i­ble data be­ing re­ported,” said Anti-Defama­tion League CEO Jonathan A. Green­blatt, who called for an “all-hands-on-deck ap­proach" to ad­dress un­der­re­port­ing.”

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