Hate crimes across the United States spiked 17 percent in 2017 — marking a rise for the third straight year, according to an FBI report released Tuesday. There were 7,175 reported hate crimes last year, up from 6,121 in 2016. The FBI's annual hate crimes report defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on a person's race, religion or sexual orientation, among other categories.
The report's release comes about two weeks after a gunman shot 11 people to death inside a Pittsburgh synagogue. The suspect in that shooting, Robert Bowers, 46, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and later told police that "all these Jews need to die," authorities said. Bowers was charged with federal hate crimes and other charges. "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. "That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate whenever it occurs." There was a nearly 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes, with more than 900 reports of crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions.
The Justice Department said it is prioritizing hate crimes prosecutions and created a specialized initiative last month, which includes a website for hate crimes resources. More than half of the reported hate crimes in 2017 were motivated by bias against a person's race or ethnicity, according to the report.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes were down about 11 percent, according to the report. However, anti-Muslim sentiments are growing in the U.S., as Muslims have become the target of increasing hostility since Donald Trump's election. Based on research conducted by the New America Foundation and the American Muslim Institution, two in five Americans think that Islam is not compatible with the country's values. Among Republicans, the percentage is higher with 71 percent of them feeling uncomfortable with Islam. About 56 percent of Republicans also admitted they would be concerned if a mosque was built in their neighborhood, the study reveals.
According to a leading Muslim advocacy group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. rose 91 percent in the first half of 2017, compared with the same period in 2016. The most frequent type of incidents documented by CAIR in the second quarter of 2017 involved harassment, defined as a non-violent or non-threatening incident. The second most common type of bias incidents was hate crimes and involved physical violence or property damage. CAIR said the most prevalent trigger for anti-Muslim bias incidents in 2017 remains the victim's ethnicity or national origin, accounting for 32 percent of the total.