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Hate Crime Violence At 16-Year High In U.S., Particularly Against Latinx And LGBTQ+ People

'This data is harrowing'

If 2018 felt particularly hostile, you're not imagining it: Hate crime violence surged to their highest levels in 16 years, with a significant increase in violence against Latinx people and LGBTQ+ people and a drop in violence against Muslims and Arab-Americans, according to an FBI report released Tuesday (November 12).

The FBI used data submitted by more than 2,000 police departments and law enforcement agencies and logged 7,120 hate crimes which were motivated by bias based on race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. While that total is 55 incidents lower than 2017, “crimes against persons,” such as physical assaults, homicides, and intimidation, were up nearly 12 percent, according to the Los Angeles Times; those attacks accounted for 61 percent of the total hate crime incidents in 2018. It's also possible that a number of hate crimes weren't reported to police, so the information included in the report only accounts for known attacks.

“We're seeing a leaner and meaner type of hate crime going on,” Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino, told NPR on Tuesday (November 12). “Homicides were up and crimes against persons were up and that's an important thing to look at.”

According to the FBI data, anti-Black hate crimes continue to be the most frequent racism-fueled hate crimes, although these incidents dropped to a record low share in 2018. Anti-Latinx hate crimes increased from 427 in 2017 to 485 in 2018. Incidents of anti-Muslim hatred still made up the majority of anti-religion-fueled hate crimes, but decreased from 273 in 2017 to 188 in 2018. Anti-Sikh attacks, on the other hand, tripled between 2017 and 2018.

While anti-Semitic incidents decreased from 938 in 2017 to 835 in 2018, last year saw the deadliest attack on Jewish people in modern U.S. history: In October, a perpetrator killed 11 people worshiping at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and voiced his anti-Semitism during the attack.

There was also a total of 1,196 recorded hate crimes against people because of their sexual orientation in 2018, up from 1,130 in 2017. Specifically, the number of reported anti-lesbian hate crimes stayed the same from 2017-2018; the number of anti-gay hate crimes increased from 679 in 2017 to 726 in 2018; the number of anti-bisexual hate-crimes decreased from 25 in 2017 to 21 in 2018; reported anti-transgender hate crimes increased from 106 in 2017 to 142 in 2018. In 2018, there were at least 26 known murders of transgender or gender non-conforming people; up from the previous year. At least 22 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in 2019 so far. The majority of these victims are people of color, and specifically Black transgender women. Both activists and politicians are calling such attacks an epidemic.

The FBI also reported a drop in the number of reported "anti-heterosexual hate crimes," from 32 in 2017 to 17 in 2018; given that ProPublica reported in May 2018 that nearly every report of that nature is due to police error, that drop could simply be attributed to law enforcement being more careful about their paperwork.

“Bias-motivated crimes are a real, frightening problem in the United States, and LGBTQ people continue to be targeted because of who they are,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a press release provided to MTV News. “The epidemic of violence against LGBTQ people and specifically against transgender women of color is staggering, and it is something we must address head-on. For that to happen, we need mandatory hate crimes reporting across the country, better training for law enforcement officers to recognize bias-motivated crime and greater inclusion and equity in our communities."

"This data is harrowing," he added, "but it is also helpful in understanding just how much work we all have to do, together."