By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
The number of hate crimes involving race and religion declined in the United States last year, leading to a slight drop in the overall total, but incidents related to sexual orientation and ethnicity showed increases, according to federal statistics released yesterday.
The FBI reported 7,624 hate-crime incidents last year involving 9,006 offenses and 9,535 victims. That represented about a 1.3 percent drop in the number of incidents from 2006, when law enforcement agencies reported 7,722 cases, 9,080 offenses and 9,652 victims.
Leading the overall decline were decreases of 3.2 percent in the number of incidents motivated by racial bias and 4.2 percent in those involving religious bias. Those were the two largest categories, accounting respectively for 50.8 percent and 18.4 percent of hate-crime incidents in which a "single bias" was detected, the FBI reported.
Incidents motivated by bias based on sexual orientation, however, were up 5.5 percent from 2006 and those targeting people because of their ethnicity or national origin rose 2.3 percent. The two categories accounted for 16.6 percent and 13.2 percent of incidents respectively. About 1 percent of incidents involved bias against a person's physical or mental disability.
The FBI had no explanation for the changes, saying its reports are entirely statistical. Nor does the bureau compare statistics from year to year, because the number of law enforcement agencies participating in the data-collection program varies annually.
In 2007, 13,241 law enforcement agencies supplied data for the program, compared with 12,620 in 2006.
Nine slayings and two rapes were reported last year as hate crimes, compared with three killings and six rapes in 2006. Of the offenses classified as hate crimes against persons in 2007, about 52 percent were assaults and 47 percent involved intimidation. Nearly 63 percent of known offenders were white, and 21 percent were black.
In response to the FBI report, the Anti-Defamation League called for "a renewed national commitment to prevent criminal behavior motivated by prejudice." Although religion-based crimes decreased, the group noted, the number of reported anti-Jewish crimes rose slightly, from 967 in 2006 to 969 last year.
Crimes against Hispanics also increased for the fourth year in a row, the ADL said, with 595 incidents reported in 2007, compared with475 in 2004.
"While we welcome the fact that reported hate crimes declined slightly in 2007, violent bigotry is still disturbingly prevalent in America, with nearly one hate crime occurring every hour of every day of the year," ADL director Abraham H. Foxman said in a statement.
One state, Mississippi, reported that no hate crimes occurred there last year. Nationally, nearly 85 percent of the law enforcement agencies participating in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program reported no hate crimes in their jurisdictions.