Hate Crimes Increase by 17 Percent, FBI Report Shows

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption The BBC spoke to a Muslim American couple targeted by an abusive caller

The number of hate crime incidents reported in the United States jumped by 17 percent past year, the largest increase since 2001 when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 fueled a surge in attacks on Americans of Muslim and Arab ancestry.

According to the FBI's annual Hate Crime Statistics report, there were a total of 7,175 hate crime incidents reported past year by law enforcement agencies, up from 6,121 incidents in 2016.

Sexual orientation and religion also were factors, and attacks on Jews accounted for almost two-thirds of religion-based hate crimes. There was a 37% spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes.

Whitaker said he was "particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes", which are already the most common type of religious hate crime in the United States. The next closest were anti-Islamic hate crimes, which made up 18.7 percent of hate crimes.

Some of the increases may be the result of better reporting by police departments, but law enforcement officials and advocacy groups don't doubt that hate crimes are on the rise.

The report for 2017 came two weeks after a man killed 11 people and wounded six others at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The suspect was charged with dozens of federal hate crimes.

"This report provides further evidence that more must be done to address the divisive climate of hate in America", said Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League.

The Justice Department has said it is prioritizing hate crimes prosecutions and created a specialized initiative last month, which includes a website for hate crimes resources.

The vast majority of the incidents reported, 7,106, were "single-bias" hate-crime incidents, while 69 incidents stemmed from multiple biases.

More than half of such crimes, about 3 of 5, targeted a person's race or ethnicity, while about 1 of 5 targeted their religion.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said the crimes were "despicable violations of our core values as Americans".

With the exception of just one of the aforementioned categories in just one year, every category listed here saw an increase in reported hate crimes for every year between 2014 and 2017, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Critics have long warned that the data may be incomplete, in part because it is based on voluntary reporting by police agencies across the country. A rise in hate crimes against Jews and a bomb threat at the Stroum Jewish Community Center previous year prompted Mercer Island resident Joseph Schocken to push to expand the federal hate-crimes laws to include threats and the defacing of religious institutions.

Of the more than 7,000 incidents reported past year, 2,013 targeted black Americans, while 938 targeted Jewish Americans.

There were 976 anti-Jewish hate crimes reported in 2017, compared to 834 in 2016.

"The FBI data, in what is missing from it, also demonstrates the hate crime reporting system we have in place is failing to respond adequately to hate crime, and thus inform fully the policy remedies we must make to improve our response to hate", Berry said in a statement.

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