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Hate crimes on the rise

The Federal Bureau of Investigations has released its statistics on hate crimes from 2015 and shows a 6.8 percent rise in the rate of such crimes.

The Uniform Crime Report documented a startling rise in anti-Muslim and anti-transgender crimes. This caused the number of hate crimes overall to increase.

Anti-Muslim crimes alone rose 67 percent. In 2014, the number of these incidents stood at 154, but in 2015 the F.B.I. documented 257. Pew Research Center claims this is akin to post-9/11 reports in 2001.

The reported incidents include 301 individual crimes, as one incident can contain more than one crime. Most of the crimes were against people as opposed to property. Most hate crimes attributed to religious bias tend to involve property damage, but 71 percent of anti-Muslim crimes were crimes to a person.

Although F.B.I. statistics for 2016 will not be released until next year, there has been anecdotal evidence suggesting a continuing trend. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group that tracks hate crimes, reported a spike in hate crimes after the 2016 presidential election. However, all reports cannot be confirmed.

In a survey from January of this year, Pew Research Center found that a majority of Americans, 59 percent, believe there is “a lot” of discrimination against Muslims. Seventy-six percent also said this discrimination was increasing.

Overall, 59 percent of hate crimes were based on the victim’s race, ethnicity or ancestry. Twenty percent of all attacks were a result of religious bias and 18 percent were based on the sexual orientation of the victim.

While the Justice Department has been collecting this data for 26 years, the F.B.I. still has trouble collecting this information. F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, commented on this problem.

“We need 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,” said Comey.

According to Politico, nearly 15 thousand law enforcement agencies participate in the hate crime statistics program. The participation is voluntary and there are many local agencies who do not report hate crimes.

Based on a study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, hate crimes are under-reported. The study covering 2003 to 2006 and 2007 to 2011 found that only one in three hate crimes are reported. Hate crime expert Jack Levin, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, held a suspicion that the number of hate crimes is greatly underestimated by the F.B.I.

“The F.B.I. hate crime count is based on a voluntary reporting system that many police jurisdictions refuse to support. In 2011, for example, only five hate crimes were reported for the entire state of Louisiana, just two for Wyoming, and 11 for Arkansas,” Levin told SPLC.

Levin goes on to say, “By contrast, other states have typically reported a much higher rate of hate crimes. For example, Massachusetts reported 367 in 2011, and New Jersey had 508 reported hate crimes. It is hard to Imagine such a huge divergence in rates arising out of anything but different reporting standards and, perhaps, different levels of enthusiasm for reporting hate crimes at all.”

The relatively low reports of hate crimes could also be attributed to the fact that many hate crimes are not reported at all. Levin believes that victims do not think the police can or are willing to help and, also, a fear of retaliation.

Another statistic published by the bureau’s study may point to a justified fear of reporting. From 2003 to 2006, a suspect was arrested in only 10 percent of cases and that number dropped to four percent in the period from 2007 to 2011.

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