The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Hate crimes rose in 2015 — including a big increase targeting Muslims

A man cries as community members take part in a protest to demand a stop to hate crimes after the funeral of Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin in the Queens borough of New York City on Aug. 15. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

After last week's presidential election, a number of incidents of abuse and violence targeting religious or racial minorities have been reported across the country. While not all of the incidents have been independently verified, the Southern Poverty Law Center has recorded more than 200 such occurrences, including some that specifically cite the election and Donald Trump.

Since most of these reports are anecdotal, it's tricky to know how they compare to years past. (Last year, for example, an apparent rash of fires at predominantly black churches appears to have been mostly a function of looking for a pattern where none existed.) But on Monday, the FBI released its own official data on hate crimes in the United States in 2015. The data suggests that there was an increase that overlapped with the rise of the Trump era — particularly targeting Muslims.

Compiling data from nearly 15,000 law enforcement agencies, the FBI estimates that there were 5,818 hate crime incidents in 2015 targeting 7,121 victims. The previous year, there were 6,727 victims, an increase of 6 percent.

Last year, as in 2014, most of the incidents focused on a victim's race or ethnicity. Black Americans were the most common victims of hate crimes, making up over a quarter of the victims each year. The number of victims targeted because they were black rose nearly 9 percent from 2014 to 2015 — and the number of victims targeted because they were white increased 7.5 percent.

For 2015, the FBI added data collection on the number of people targeted because of their Arabic background, making it impossible to compare that figure over time. But the FBI does collect data on hate crimes targeting people by religion. While attacks on those of the Jewish faith continued to be the most common religious motivation for a hate crime, the number of victims targeted for being Muslim increased by two-thirds.

Since the FBI is collecting data from local law enforcement agencies, its data isn't necessarily comprehensive. The numbers suggest, though, that the highest prevalence of such crimes as a function of population was in Massachusetts.

During an interview on “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Trump was asked about the recent rash of incidents that has garnered so much attention from the press. “I am very surprised to hear that,” he said, then telling his supporters to “stop it.”

Last year, two men in Boston were accused of assaulting a homeless Hispanic man, citing Trump's calls to deport illegal immigrants when asked by the police what motivated them. Asked about that incident in August 2015, Trump's answer was different.

“I haven’t heard about that,” Trump said at a news conference. “It would be a shame, but I haven’t heard about that.”

He continued: “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate. I will say that, and everybody here has reported it.”

The two men accused of the attack pleaded guilty to a hate crime earlier this year.