Hate crimes in the United States increased for the third consecutive year in 2017, jumping 17 percent from the previous year, according to an FBI report released Tuesday.
Law enforcement agencies reported 7,175 hate crimes in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016. That represents the largest single-year increase in hate crimes since 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks led to a spike in anti-Muslim crimes.
It is not clear how much of the increase is attributable to more law enforcement agencies reporting hate crimes to the bureau. The FBI said 1,000 additional agencies provided hate-crime statistics for 2017 compared to previous years.
Attacks based on race and religion are still the largest type of hate crime. Of the more than 7,000 incidents reported last year, 2,013 targeted blacks and 938 targeted Jews. About 1,130 incidents targeted people for their sexual orientation, the FBI said.
Anti-Semitic hate crimes increased 37 percent, accounting for 58 percent of crimes motivated by an anti-religious bias, while hate crimes against Muslims declined 11 percent, according to the FBI.
Acting Attorney General Mathew Whitaker said he was “particularly troubled” by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes.
“This report is a call to action — and we will heed that call,” Mr. Whitaker said in a statement.
The FBI report comes less than a month after 11 people were killed and six wounded in a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the worst single anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. Suspect Robert Bowers has been charged with scores of federal hate crimes.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said the report “provides further evidence that more must be done to address the climate of hate in America.”
“That begins with leaders from all walks of life and from all sectors of society, forcefully condemning anti-Semitism, bigotry, and hate wherever it occurs,” Mr. Greenblatt said in a statement.
At his post-midterm press conference last week, President Trump called hate crimes “a problem we want to solve.”
The Trump administration last year cut federal funding for a Department of Homeland Security initiative to combat right-wing extremist and white supremacist groups. That money was redirected toward fighting Muslim extremists.
Mr. Trump told reporters at last week’s press conference that the administration had given “a lot of funding” to fight extremism, but provided scant details.
“No, we have given funding for that — a lot of funding,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “But I do believe it’s a problem. And I can tell you what — it’s a problem that I don’t like even a little bit.”
Of the hate crimes reported last year, roughly 5,000 were against people, such as intimidation, assault and murder. More than 3,000 were against property, ranging from vandalism to robbery to arson. Some of the more than 7,100 crimes were listed in both categories.
Jack Levin, who specializes in hate crime research at Northwestern University, said the increase is likely far greater than the 17 percent reported by the FBI.
“The number of jurisdictions and willingness of police departments to provide information changes from year to year,” he said. “We can never be sure whether increases or decreases over time are an artifact of reporting or differences in hate crimes from year-to-year.” But the FBI data is still the best measure of hate crimes in the country, he said.
“There is really nothing else that we have that gives us any indication as to the trend in hate crimes over time,” Mr. Levin said. “But sadly, the FBI data is not very good.”
Mr. Greenblatt noted in a statement that at least 92 cities with large populations do not report hate crime data or say they had zero incidents in 2017.
“You can’t move what you can’t measure,” he said. The Justice Department started an initiative last month to better capture hate crime data. Less than two days after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced a new “one-stop portal” website for local law enforcement and the public to report hate crimes to federal officials. It also offers resources such as training materials, research reports and statistics to help people combat hate crimes.
Mr. Rosenstein said hate crimes often go unnoticed at the federal level, after he reviewed the data from 2016 when 88 percent of law enforcement agencies told the FBI they had zero such crimes that year.
“Simply because hate crimes are not reported does not mean they are not happening,” Mr. Rosenstein said last month. “Together we can find ways to improve reporting of hate crimes that will allow us to more effectively target our resources to where they are most needed.”