FBI: Hate Crimes Jumped 17% During Trump’s First Year In Office

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit a memorial outside the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018, placing flowers and stones in remembrance of the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)/Flickr

“This is a historic increase, and it has to be recognized as such. It can’t be explained away by increased reporting."

President Donald Trump’s first year in office brought with it the highest rise in reported hate crimes that the United States has seen in a decade, according to data released by the FBI on Tuesday.

Overall, reported hate crimes across all types jumped 17 percent in 2017, Buzzfeed News reported.

> Extremism watchdogs say the latest FBI hate crime report confirms their worries about the rise of bias-motivated attacks across the board, with the numbers suggesting an outbreak of hatred targeting several groups rather than the isolated increases of previous years. Black people, Jews, Muslims, LGBT people, and other minorities all saw sharp increases or other concerning patterns.

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> According to the FBI, the number of hate crimes reported in 2017 was 7,175, up from 6,121 in 2016. The last time the total was higher than 7,000 was in 2008, when the FBI report listed 7,780 bias crimes.

However, Buzzfeed notes a few conditions for interpreting the numbers: More law enforcement agencies participated in reporting hate crimes this year, which could have increased totals; the FBI data is generally considered an undercount, because reporting by authorities is inconsistent and not all victims are comfortable reporting in the first place; and advocacy groups said they received far more reports than represented in the FBI numbers released this week.

> Hate crime experts say the report’s value is not as a meticulous count, but as a reliable barometer of trends. And the trend that emerged from the 2017 numbers is chilling, said longtime hate tracker Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

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> “This is a historic increase, and it has to be recognized as such. It can’t be explained away by increased reporting,” Levin said. “We’re at a new plateau."

Most of the 7,175 incidents Tuesday's report were driven by racial bias, according to Buzzfeed, with half of the incidents targeting black people.

> Religious bias was the next biggest category, with anti-Jewish crimes jumping to 938 incidents from 684 the previous year. The double-digit spike holds even if you remove one major episode that skews the numbers far higher: In 2017, dozens of bomb threats were made to Jewish community centers across the United States, with each one eligible to be counted as a hate crime. Authorities determined that a few of the threats were made by a former journalist, Juan M. Thompson, who was harassing a woman he had dated; the rest allegedly came from a Jewish, Israeli American man, Michael Ron David Kadar, who’d been rejected from enlisting in the Israel Defense Forces because of mental health issues. Both men eventually were convicted.

> Levin said there was a roughly 14% rise in anti-Jewish attacks even without the bomb threats, a number that reflects the alarm US Jewish groups have been sounding as they report increased hostility, such as vandalized cemeteries and synagogues. Then came the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, in which a suspect with a history of hateful comments about Jews and other minorities killed 11 people and injured seven in the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in US history. That attack occurred last month, so it’s not included in the 2017 figures.

Levin also said while it's difficult to make a clear and direct connection between Trump's divisive rhetoric and the significant uptick in reported hate crimes due to an abundance of contributing factors, his research has shown some correlation between the words of high-profile leaders and behavior of the public.

> Levin said the clearer trend is “the specter of white nationalism,” with the rise in hate crimes running parallel to rampant online hatred and a string of the largest white nationalist rallies in a decade or longer.

> “The bully pulpit is important, and there are people who respond to negative stereotypes that are promoted in the ether of society,” Levin said. “Negative stereotypes are the fuel, and the spark can be from peer validation, perceived declining status, fear, as well as people who are just hardcore bigots.”

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