by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Reported hate crimes are at a 10-year high, according to the FBI, which collects hate crime data from police jurisdictions around the country.
Localities are not required to participate in the FBI's data collection program, and many choose not to, so the numbers are probably even higher than the FBI reports.
There were 7,314 hate crimes last year, up from 7,120 the year before - and approaching the all-time high of 7,783 in 2008. The FBI's annual report defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on a person's race, religion, sexual orientation, or other protected categories.
Among the findings that the FBI reports, hate-motivated killings are at their highest level since the FBI began collecting that data in the early 1990s.
There were 51 hate crime murders in 2019, which includes 22 people killed in a mass shooting that targeted Mexicans at a Walmart in the border city of El Paso, Texas, the FBI report said.
The suspect in that August 2019 shooting, which left two dozen other people injured, was charged with both state and federal crimes. Local authorities said his motive was to scare Spanish-speaking people into leaving the United States.
The data also shows there was a nearly 7% increase in religion-based hate crimes, with 953 reports of crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions last year, up from 835 the year before.
The FBI said the number of hate crimes against African Americans dropped slightly to 1,930, from 1,943.
Anti-Hispanic hate crimes, however, rose to 527 in 2019, from 485 in 2018. Excluded from the FBI data are incidents of police violence against people of color.
The total number of hate crimes based on sexual orientation stayed relatively stable, with one fewer crime reported last year, compared with the year before. However, there were 20 more hate crimes against Gay men reported for 2019 than 2018.
Some of the 2019 increases may be the result of better reporting by police departments, the FBI said, but law enforcement officials and advocacy groups agree that hate crimes are on the rise. Justice Department career prosecutors - if not the Trump DOJ appointees - have been specifically prioritizing hate crime prosecutions since the Obama administration.
As the data was made public on November 16, advocacy groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, called on Congress and law enforcement agencies across the US to improve data collection and reporting of hate crimes.
"The total severity of the impact and damage caused by hate crimes cannot be fully measured without complete participation in the FBI's data collection process," the Anti-Defamation League's president, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement.
Last year, only 2,172 law enforcement agencies out of about 15,000 participating agencies across the country reported hate crime data to the FBI, the bureau said.
While the number of agencies reporting hate crimes increased, the number of agencies participating in the program actually dropped from the year before. A large number of police agencies appeared not to submit any hate crime data.
"The FBI's report is another reminder that we have much work to do to address hate in America," said Margaret Huang, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.