Hate Crimes in the U.S. Rose by 17% in 2017

White supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Va., last year at the “Unite the Right” rally. (Steve Helber / Associated Press)

Hate crimes rose in the U.S. by more than 17% in 2017, the third straight year that such prejudice-motivated attacks have risen, according to a report the FBI released Tuesday.

It is the biggest annual increase in reported hate crimes in more than a decade.

The count, which drew on data submitted by more than 3,000 law enforcement agencies, documented a total of 7,175 hate crimes in 2017.

The tally was 1,054 higher than the year before.

The report is the first federal calculation of hate crimes that largely took place since Donald Trump became president. In his nearly 22 months in office, Trump has repeatedly defended himself against accusations that he has emboldened hate groups with his rhetoric and policies concerning immigrants, Muslims and others.

In his first year, Trump faced criticism for being slow to condemn high-profile attacks against minorities, relenting only after intense public pressure. Incidents included the fatal shooting of an Indian immigrant in a Kansas bar by a man who yelled, “Get out of my country!” a rash of bomb threats against Jewish community centers, deadly stabbings of two men who defended women from racist and anti-Muslim threats on a Portland, Ore., train, and a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that the president said included “some very fine people on both sides.” Assailants in each case have faced federal or state criminal charges.

Yet for those looking for evidence of a bump in hate crimes under Trump, experts said that the FBI numbers can’t prove it one way or another.

“Unfortunately, the FBI data are probably the best indicators of hate crime that we have,” said Jack Levin, a criminologist at the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict at Northeastern University. “I say unfortunately because they are not very good.”

“The FBI vastly undercounts hate crimes,” he said. “We’d like to be able to compare the number of hate crimes year by year. We’d like to see trends over a long period of time. The problem is that every year different jurisdictions report.”

In a news release, the FBI suggested the hate crime numbers shot up in 2017 because of better reporting by police departments.

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SOURCE: LA Times, Jaweed Kaleem