Hate crimes reported last year by police agencies nationwide were down by 15 percent compared with 2008 and hit their lowest point in 15 years, the FBI said Monday.
In a report released by the bureau's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the FBI said 6,604 criminal incidents involving 7,789 offenses were reported in 2009 as a result of bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability.
In the District, the number of reported hate-crime incidents dropped last year compared with 2008 from 42 to 36; Virginia's dropped from 263 to 150; and Maryland's rose from 100 to 102.
The FBI report noted that of 6,598 single-bias incidents, 48.5 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 19.7 percent by religious bias, 18.5 percent by sexual-orientation bias, 11.8 percent by ethnicity/national origin bias, and bias against a disability accounted for 1.5 percent of single-bias incidents.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Monday welcomed the report, but expressed "disappointment" that more than 60 large U.S. cities still did not participate in the annual study.
"We welcome the fact that the FBI's report contains both the lowest hate crime totals since 1994 and the largest number of reporting law enforcement agencies ever," Robert G. Sugarman, ADL national chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, said in a joint statement. "However, violent bigotry is still disturbingly prevalent in America and we are deeply disappointed that over 60 cities nationwide with over 100,000 residents either did not participate in the data collection effort or reported figures that appear not credible."
The two ADL officials noted that a victim of hate violence is "much less likely" to report the crime to a police department if he does not believe the crime will be treated with the seriousness it merits. They said American communities "have learned the hard way" that failure to address bias crimes can cause "an isolated incident to fester and result in widespread tension."
Paul LeGendre, director of the watchdog group Human Rights First, said the FBI report represented a positive sign, but the information "still speaks to the need for implementation of laws and policies designed to combat bias-motivated attacks."
"While we welcome the decreases in overall numbers in 2009, the fact that there were still over 8,000 victims of hate crime remains disturbing," Mr. LeGendre said. "Similar and more recent incidents from 2010 have etched in our memory the brutality of these crimes."
He also said the underreporting of hate crimes to law enforcement agencies was a continuing problem, adding that "underreporting presents a challenge in terms of our ability to see the full extent of the problem and to ensure that offenders are brought to justice."
"Community outreach and efforts to address victims' mistrust of law enforcement can help to address the challenges underreporting creates," he said.
The FBI report, mandated by the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, also said of the 4,793 hate crimes against persons in 2009, intimidation accounted for 45 percent, simple assaults for 35.3 percent and aggravated assaults for 19.1 percent. Other offenses, including nine rapes and eight murders, accounted for the remainder.
There were 2,970 hate crimes classified as crimes against property; most of these (83 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. The remaining 17 percent consisted of robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson and other offenses.
Of the 6,225 known offenders, the report said 62.4 percent were white, 18.5 percent were black, 7.3 percent were groups made up of persons of various races, 1 percent were American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 0.7 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander. The race was unknown for the remaining identified offenders.
According to the report, the largest percentage — 31.3 percent — of hate crime incidents occurred in or near homes.
In addition, 17.2 percent took place on highways, roads, alleys or streets; 11.4 percent occurred at schools or colleges; 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages; and 4.3 percent in churches, synagogues or temples. The remaining 29.7 percent of hate crime incidents took place at other specified locations, multiple locations or other/unknown locations.
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