FBI: hate crimes up nationally in 2006

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

Hate Crime increased 7.7 percent nationwide in 2006, according to an annual hate crimes report issued by the FBI in November. However, Missouri had the same number of hate crimes as in 2005, and in Illinois, hate crime went down 7.1 percent, according to the FBI.

There were 7,722 hate crime incidents reported in the United States, up from 7163 incidents last year, according to Hate Crime Statistics, 2006, published by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Within those 7,720 incidents, the FBI reports 9,080 total criminal offenses (within individual incidents, there can be multiple criminal offenses). The FBI considers hate crimes to be crimes against people or property motivated by bias against race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or physical or mental disability.

Of the incidents reported, 51.8 percent were racially motivated; 18.9 percent were motivated by religious bias; 15.5 percent by sexual orientation bias; 12.7 percent motivated by ethnicity or national origin bias, and 1 percent by disability bias.

Of the 1,597 offenses motivated by religious bias, the FBI report states that 64.3 percent (1,027 offenses) were anti-Jewish; 12 percent (191) were anti-Islamic; 5.1 percent (81) were anti-Catholic; 4 percent (62) were anti-Protestant; 8.8 percent were against other religions, and 5.5 percent were against multiple religions. Crimes motivated by bias against Jews were up 14 percent from 2005, and overall, crimes motivated by religious bias were up 19 percent.

In Missouri, the FBI reported a total of 78 hate crimes in 2006: the same number of incidents reported in 2005.

Illinois had a 7.1 percent decrease in incidents reported, with 156 incidents in 2006, down from 168 incidents in 2005.

Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League for Missouri and Southern Illinois, said some of the more surprising figures in the annual FBI report are the number of agencies around the country that either do not submit hate crime data, or reported zero hate crimes for 2006.

In 2006, the FBI report states that 12,620 law enforcement agencies submitted data for the hate crimes report, about 200 more agencies than last year. However, there are a total of nearly 17,000 police agencies around the country, according to the FBI. Although the Hate Crime Statistics Act mandates an annual report on hate crimes, it is not mandatory for individual jurisdictions to participate.

And, as Aroesty noted, 83 percent of the agencies that did participate reported zero hate crimes for 2006.

“It’s not that I don’t believe it, but I find it a bit unusual, ” Aroesty said about the number of agencies reporting no hate crimes for the year.

“There are a lot of jurisdictions out there that are not recording things as hate or bias incidents things that, in fact, are, ” Aroesty said, “and other jurisdictions that are choosing not to report. “

“I’d like to be optimistic, but I think that there’s this sensibility among local jurisdictions that if they say there’s been any hate crime, that that’s somehow a negative, ” she said.

“My attitude is that if you admit there has been hate or bias activity, but there has been broad community participation to do something about it, then that’s positive as well, ” Aroesty said.

Aroesty said that certain groups may also be less likely to report hate crimes to the police.

“Statistics never tell the whole story, ” she said. “In the gay community, I think there is still an unwillingness to report and so I think that those numbers are skewed, ” she said.

In the St. Louis area of Missouri (including incidents reported by police departments in St. Louis, St. Louis County, Chesterfield, St. John, St. Charles, St. Peters, Wentzville, and Washington University and UM-St. Louis), there were a total of 27 hate crime incidents reported in 2006. Of those, 17 were motivated by racial bias, five by religious bias, and five by sexual orientation bias.

Elsewhere in the state, there were seven incidents reported in Lee’s Summit, and 19 incidents reported in Springfield. No data was submitted by the Kansas City Police Department.

Lieutenant Gary Berra, a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department (which reported four hate crimes in 2006), said the hate crimes his department typically deals with are crimes against property.

“Typically, we see crimes against property, like defacement. Hate crimes against persons are very rare in St. Louis County, ” he said.

Berra said that in general, the individual officers on the scene are the ones who determine whether an incident is a hate crime.

Nationwide, 60 percent of hate crime offenses in 2006 were crimes against persons: 46 percent of which were cases of intimidation; 31.9 percent were simple assault; 21.6 percent were aggravated assault and .2 percent consisted of 3 murders and six forcible rapes.

The vast majority (81 percent) of offenses against property were damage or vandalism; the rest were robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson or other crimes, according to the FBI report.

According to Laurie Crawford, manager of the Criminal Justice Information Services Section of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which collects hate crimes data from Missouri police agencies, for 2007, through the end of September, police departments in Missouri have reported to her office 66 hate crimes, including 6 crimes involving bias against Jews.

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