The number of hate crimes committed in 2016 increased from the year before, according to a review released Monday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"Hate Crime Statistics, 2016," the latest release from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting, documents 6,121 criminal incidents and 7,321 related offenses as being motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity. That equals about 18.9 hate crimes per million Americans, using FBI population estimates.
The raw number of incidents increased 4.6 percent from 2015, when there were 5,850 criminal incidents and 6,885 related offenses. That figure comes to about 18.2 hate crimes per million Americans, meaning that the rate of hate crimes increased by about 3.8 percent between 2015 and 2016.
It is not clear to what extent this increase represents an increase in the real number of bias incidents, versus an increase in the number of reported incidents. Data were collected from more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies, covering 289 million Americans in 2016. Those numbers come from 300 new reporting agencies, covering six million Americans, which did not report to the FBI in 2015.
Still, some organizations saw the increase, the second year in a row for which hate crimes rates went up, as cause for alarm.
"It's deeply disturbing to see hate crimes increase for the second year in a row," said Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. "Hate crimes demand priority attention because of their special impact. They not only hurt one victim, but they also intimidate and isolate a victim’s whole community and weaken the bonds of our society."
For his part, Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised to "aggressively prosecute" hate crime offenses.
"No person should have to fear being violently attacked because of who they are, what they believe, or how they worship," Sessions said. "The full report of the Task Force is due in January, but there are actions we can take now, like continuing to aggressively prosecute those who violate an individuals' [sic] civil rights."
The majority of incidents, 58.9 percent, were motivated by bias against the victim's race, ethnicity, or ancestry. Half of those incidents were targeted at African Americans, while a further 20.5 percent were attributable to anti-white bias. 10.9 percent of incidents were targeted against Latino or Hispanic Americans.
The second most frequent kind of hate crime, 21.1 percent of incidents, were caused by bias against religious affiliations. Anti-Jewish bias continued to lead in those offenses, accounting for 54.4 percent of cases. A further 24.5 percent of cases were motivated by anti-Islamic bias.
The Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, in a press release responding to the report, decried these rates. They noted that anti-Muslim bias incidents increased 20 percent as compared to 2015.
In bias incidents based on gender or sexuality, the majority of victims were gay men—62.7 percent of the 1,255 victims of sexual-orientation bias. There were 131 incidents of bias against transgender or gender non-conforming people, making up 1.7 percent of all incidents.
The majority of bias incidents, 54.2 percent, were for either simple or aggravated assault. The plurality of the remainder, 44.7 percent of overall incidents, were for intimidation. The FBI recorded nine murders and 24 rapes as hate crimes.
One such murder victim was transgender 16-year-old Kedarie Johnson, who was shot and killed in March of 2016 in what prosecutors have labeled a hate crime. Sessions was personally involved in dispatching an experienced federal hate crimes lawyer, Christopher Perras, to prosecute Johnson's killer.
"I was pleased to learn on Nov. 3, 2017 that the trial resulted in a conviction, and the man now faces life in prison," Sessions said of the Johnson case in his response to the report.
"The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that individuals can live without fear of being a victim of violent crime based on who they are, what they believe, or how they worship," Sessions said.