Hate crimes motivated by hatred of a religion increased last year, with a rise in the number of crimes targeting Jews and Muslims. Of the incidents spurred by hatred of a particular religion, anti-Semitism was again the leading cause, motivating about 55 percent of those episodes, followed by anti-Muslim sentiment, which spurred about 25 percent. The number of hate crimes targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people also went up last year.
“No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, of how they worship,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement after the statistics were released.
The FBI numbers come as reports of bias-fueled incidents have increased over the past year, heightening a sense of unease nationwide.
Studies have shown increasing discrimination against Muslims in the United States. Jewish schools and institutions have been repeatedly shuttered by threats. Cities have struggled with how to handle white-supremacist groups seeking to hold rallies, and gay rights activists have decried what they describe as the Trump administration’s “all out assault on LGBTQ people, women, and other minority communities.” The number of American hate groups also has increased, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The number of hate crimes triggered by bias against a person’s racial or ethnic background rose to 3,489 from 3,310 a year earlier, the FBI report said. Half of those episodes were motivated by racism against black people. One in 5 victims were targeted because of religious bias, while 1 in 6 were victimized because of biases related to sexual orientation, the report said.
“It’s deeply disturbing to see hate crimes increase for the second year in a row,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement Monday. “Hate crimes demand priority attention because of their special impact. They not only hurt one victim, but they also intimidate and isolate a victim’s whole community and weaken the bonds of our society.”
While the FBI data captures a sweeping look at bias-fueled crimes in the nation, this report is considered incomplete because not all jurisdictions report their hate crimes. According to the FBI, 88 percent of agencies voluntarily participating in the hate crime statistics program “reported that no hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions” last year.
Then-FBI director James B. Comey, speaking earlier this year after a series of threats targeting Jewish schools and community centers, acknowledged as much, saying that the bureau needs “to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crime, to fully understand what is happening in our communities, and how to stop it.”
“Hate crime is different from other crime,” Comey said in prepared remarks delivered in May. “They strike at the heart of one’s identity — they strike at our sense of self, our sense of belonging. The end result is loss — loss of trust, loss of dignity and, in the worst case, loss of life.”
The FBI report, which collects information on the offenders in the hate crimes tallied in the previous year, found that the largest share — 46 percent — were white. About a quarter of the people who carried out hate crimes were black.
Four in 10 of the people identified as “known hate crime offenders” committed simple assault, while nearly a quarter committed aggravated assault. The report also identified more than 1,600 people who committed hate crimes by damaging, vandalizing or trying to destroy property.
This story, first published at 10:50 a.m., has been updated.