14 Nov 2018

Spike in US hate crimes for third year in a row, says FBI

1:18 pm on 14 November 2018

Hate crimes in the US rose by 17 percent in 2017, the third straight year that incidents of bias-motivated attacks have grown, according to the FBI.

A rabbi conducts a prayer vigil in front of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where 11 people were shot dead in October. Jewish Americans suffer the most hate crimes of any religion in the US.

A rabbi conducts a prayer vigil in front of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where 11 people were shot dead in October. Jewish Americans suffer the most hate crimes of any religion in the US. Photo: AFP / Getty Images

Law enforcement agencies reported 7175 hate crimes last year compared with 6121 in 2016.

The rise in hate crimes is attributed to an increase of about 1000 police departments that are now choosing to report these incidents, the FBI says.

The report found the surge especially affected black and Jewish Americans. Of the reported attacks in 2017, 2013 were aimed at African Americans and 938 were against Jewish Americans.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker called the report a "call to action" and condemned the offences as "despicable violations of our core values as Americans".

The report's main findings

According to the report, 59.6 percent of incidents were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity or ancestry.

Crimes motivated by a victim's religion constituted 20.6 percent of attacks, and crimes against a person's sexual orientation made up 15.8 percent.

The FBI definition of a hate crime is a "criminal offence 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 2017 data notes that about 5000 of the crimes were directed against people through intimidation or assault. Around 3000 were targeted at property, which includes vandalism or burglary.

Crimes against Sikhs, Hindus and Arabs were not counted prior to 2015.

Crimes against Jewish Americans saw a notable increase of 37 percent over 2016. Jews have long been the highest targeted religion, as the acting attorney general noted in his statement.

The new report comes a month after 11 Jews were killed by a gunman that burst into their synagogue in Pittsburgh as they prayed, marking the deadliest attack against Jews in US history. The suspect was charged with dozens of federal hate crimes.

Crimes against African Americans constituted 2013 crimes, marking a 16 percent increase over the previous year.

Civil rights advocates say the numbers are vastly under-reported because of individual victims who choose not to come forward, and some police agencies that do not keep accurate statistics or do not contribute them to the study.

Jonathan Greenblatt of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, said the report "provides further evidence that more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America.

"That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate whenever it occurs."

Civil rights organisation the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) said the findings were "shocking" and "requires Congress's full attention".

In his statement, Mr Whitaker said: "The Department of Justice's top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes."

"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," he continued.

- BBC

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