City, state, tribal, and other law enforcement agencies reported more than 7,000 hate crimes to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2017, according to numbers the FBI released on Tuesday.
The majority of those crimes were driven by hatred against black and Jewish people, but they also included crimes against people for being gay, Muslim, Hispanic, and other identifiers. Several hundred crimes were coded as being anti-white, although those appeared at a far lower rate than the percentage of the United States population that is white. (Eighteen percent of race-based hate crimes reported to the FBI last year were anti-white, while whites make up 77 percent of the U.S. population. Compare that to black Americans, who make up 13 percent of the country, but suffered 49 percent of reported race-based hate crimes.)
The majority of crimes were property destruction and personal intimidation. About 40 percent were assaults. Fifteen victims were reported to have been killed in hate crimes in 2017.
The FBI is reporting 17 percent more hate crimes in 2017 than in 2016. This is the third year in a row that the number of hate crimes reported to the FBI has gone up. Because these statistics aren't systematically gathered, however, it's difficult to glean from the report whether the actual number of hate crimes is increasing. Instead, local law enforcement voluntarily choose to submit their hate crime data to the FBI. More than 16,000 departments sent reports to the FBI in 2017—about 1,000 more than in 2016—but only 2,040 departments reported any hate crimes at all in their jurisdictions. An investigation by ProPublica suggests many local police departments don't train their officers in recording hate crime information to send to the federal government, and officers frequently don't report hate crimes as such. A spray-painted swastika, for example, might get classified as simple vandalism, and not a hate crime. So the FBI's annual "Hate Crime Statistics" report, which has been mandated by law since 1990, is likely a vast undercount of hate crimes: Compare it, for instance, to the federal government's National Crime Victimization Survey, which suggests an average of 250,000 hate crimes occur in the country every year.
"This report is a call to action—and we will heed that call," Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement, which called hate crimes "despicable violations of our core values as Americans." He called out anti-Semitic crimes as especially troubling. Thirty-seven percent more anti-Semitic crimes were reported to the FBI in 2017, compared to 2016, and, just a few weeks ago, America endured the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the country's history, a shooting that killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.