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FBI report shows hate crimes increase in 2016; more than half motivated by race, ethnicity

Hate crimes reported in 2016 rose by 4.6 percent compared to the previous year, according to the latest data released by the FBI. Participating agencies reported a total of 6,121 hate crimes in 2016. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The FBI released data Monday showing that the number of hate crimes rose by 4.6 percent in 2016 over the previous year.

Information in the annual hate crime report is provided by 15,254 law enforcement agencies that participate in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Criminal incidents reported are motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, or gender identity.

Participating agencies reported a total of 6,121 hate crimes last year, compared to 5,850 in 2015. It's the second consecutive year that such crimes have increased.

Similar to 2015, nearly six in 10 victims in 2016 were targeted "because of bias against the victim’s race or ethnicity," the Washington Post reported.

How accurate is the report?

Since the statistics cited are based on agencies' voluntary reporting, the number of actual hate crimes is expected to be higher.

According to NPR, nearly 90 cities with populations of more than 100,000 either reported zero hate crimes or reported no data at all for 2016.

"There's a dangerous disconnect between the rising problem of hate crimes and the lack of credible data being reported," Jonathan A. Greenblatt, Anti-Defamation League CEO, told NPR. 

Greenblatt is calling for all law enforcement agencies to participate in reporting.

Earlier this year, then FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged that the FBI 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.”

“They [hate crimes] strike at the heart of one’s identity — they strike at our sense of self, our sense of belonging," Comey said. "The end result is loss — loss of trust, loss of dignity and, in the worst case, loss of life.”

What motivated the crimes?

Bias against religion was up in 2016. Of those crimes, there was an uptick in crimes targeting Jews and Muslims. About one in five were targeted because of religious bias.

Anti-Semitism was the leading cause, motivating about 55 percent of those episodes. An increasing anti-Muslim sentiment spurred about 25 percent, the report showed.

“No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, [or] how they worship,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement after the report was released.

Crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people also rose in 2016. Sexual orientation motivated more than 17 percent of those crimes.

Hate crimes triggered by bias against a person’s racial or ethnic background increased to 3,489 from 3,310 a year earlier, according to the FBI report.

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