FBI: Reported hate crimes surged by 17 percent in US last year

The surge in hate crimes marks the largest increase in more than a decade, with a sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents.

    FBI: Reported hate crimes surged by 17 percent in US last year
    James Alex Fields Jr has been charged with a slew of charges, including hate crimes, in the 2017 murder of Heather Heyer [Michael Dwyer/AP Photo] [Daylife]

    Swelling by 17 percent last year, hate crimes in the United States marked the largest increase in more than a decade, according to a new report by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI).

    Released on Tuesday, the FBI report documented 7,175 hate crimes - at least 15 resulting in murders - across the country in 2017, although the number is likely higher because many agencies do not report such incidents.

    Of that total, nearly 60 percent of the incidents saw perpetrators target victims based on their race, ethnicity or ancestry, while one-fifth included individuals targeted owing to anti-religious bias.

    Another 15.8 percent were targeted over their sexual orientation.

    The total tally included a doubling of anti-Arab hate crimes and a large swell of anti-Semitic incidents.

    Racist graffiti is painted on the side of a mosque in Roseville, California [Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo] 

    More than 4,000 hate crimes were against people, while upwards of 3,000 were against property, including vandalism, arson and robbery, according to the FBI report.

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    Acting Attorney General Matthew G Whitaker, who was recently appointed by President Donald Trump, described the new statistics as a "call to action".

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

    "They are also despicable violations of our core values as Americans."

    Whitaker said he was "particularly troubled" by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, which grew by 37 percent last year and made up the majority of crimes religious-motivated crimes.

    Africans Americans made up nearly half of all hate crimes victims last year, according to the FBI.

    'Shocking' 

    On Twitter, the NAACP civil rights group described the report's findings as "shocking", saying that it "requires Congress's full attention". 

    The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an Alabama-based hate monitor, documented a sharp rise in hate incidents following Trump's election in November 2016, with nearly 900 incidents in the 10 days following his victory.

    Last month, the Trump administration reportedly moved to discontinue funding for a programme that combats domestic "terrorism", including allocating funds to groups that work to prevent and track right-wing violence.

    Throughout 2018, a spate of apparent hate crimes has gripped the country, among them the deadly assault on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last month.

    During that attack, a gunman stormed the synagogue and shot dead 11 worshipers. Police arrested Robert Bowers, who had posted a string of anti-Semitic and racist comments on the social media outlet Gab before allegedly carrying out the massacre.

    Days before that attack, a gunman in Louisville, Kentucky killed two elderly African Americans at a grocery store in what officials are investigating as a hate crime. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News