The number of reported hate crimes increased nationally in 2016 for the second year in a row but the number dropped slightly in North Carolina.
Nationwide, investigating agencies reported 6,121 hate crimes against 7,615 victims in 2016, according to the FBI’s report released Monday. That’s compared to 5,850 hate crimes reported in 2015. More than 57 percent of the crimes reported in 2016 were motivated by a victim’s race, and more than half of those were committed against African Americans. Twenty-one percent were motivated by a religious bias, and 17.7 percent were motivated by a sexual orientation bias.
In North Carolina, investigators from 528 city, county, university and college police departments reported 148 hate crimes, a decrease from the 161 incidents reported in 2015.
The report says 99 of the crimes were related to a victim’s race, ethnicity or ancestry. Agencies across the state also reported 21 incidents motivated by a victim’s religion; 26 related to sexual orientation; and two related to gender identity.
The 4.6 percent nationwide increase over the previous year reflects a growing trend in hate crimes during and following the election of President Donald Trump, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, with many incidents reported by Muslims, blacks and Jews as well as LGBTQ people. The Southern Poverty Law Center also notes that there was a surge in incidents in the last three months of 2016.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said hate crimes would be a top focus of his Justice Department, according to The Associated Press. In a statement Monday, he said he’s awaiting a task force report on steps the department can take to improve training for prosecutors and investigators, boost data collection on hate crimes and partner with local officials and communities. Sessions said the department will continue to aggressively prosecute people who violate the civil rights of others.
“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 in a statement.
Hate crime victims can be individuals, businesses, government entities, religious organizations or society as a whole, and hate crimes can be committed against people, property or society.
Raleigh Police reported 28 incidents in 2016, 15 of them racially motivated, and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police reported 27, 16 of them connected to race. Universities and colleges in the state reported eight hate crimes.
The numbers are not considered exhaustive because they are based on voluntary reporting by almost 16,000 police agencies.
Civil rights groups have said the reporting should be made mandatory.
When the FBI was able to get information about perpetrators, 46 percent were white and 26 percent were black nationally.
Of the crimes that were motivated by a victim’s religion, more than half were against Jewish people and a fourth were against Muslims, according to the report.
Over the weekend, Saint Francis United Methodist Church on Kildaire Farm Road in Cary was vandalized with spray-painted racial slurs, “KKK” and other messages. Church members, staff and volunteers were able to clean the graffiti before morning service was finished Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.