Hate crime murders reached a record high in 2018, which also had the most hate-motivated violent offenses in 17 years, according to FBI data released on Tuesday.
Law enforcement agencies logged 24 hate crime homicides in 2018, the most on record, according to the report. It also documented 3,099 violent hate crimes, the most since 3,567 violent hate offenses were reported in 2001. The hate murders include 11 people killed in Pittsburgh in October 2018 by an avowed anti-Semite’s attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue.
The rising number of hate killings shows that some offenders who once would have directed their rage into property damage are instead targeting people, emboldened by the charged rhetoric being spewed by politicians and on social media, experts said.
“All of these discussions are much more hostile. Just the aggressiveness about the dangerousness of the other,” said James Nolan, a sociology professor at West Virginia University and former FBI crime analysis unit chief, told HuffPost. “It seems to be a much more aggressive dialogue that seems to be playing out in practice also.”
Civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, have noted that hate crimes have risen along with President Donald Trump’s inflammatory language regarding Jews, Muslims, and immigrants.
The FBI report likely vastly undercounts hate crimes. Only 2,026 of the nation’s 16,039 law enforcement agencies ― about 12% ― actually reported hate offenses to the bureau last year. And those that did sometimes use varying standards for what they count.
Overall, according to the FBI report, hate crimes declined less than 1% in 2018 from the year before ― the first decrease in four years. Experts said the drop is too small to be significant.
Of the 8,327 offenses the FBI report says were motivated by a single bias, more than 59% stemmed from a race or ethnicity hatred, with over 46% of those fueled by anti-African American bias. Religious bias accounted for over 18% of the offenses, with anti-Jewish hate crimes accounting for over 57% of those.
“I was hoping [the hate crime numbers] could be better, but I think that’s the reality we’re living in now,” said Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute, a Washington-based nonprofit that monitors hate crimes and promote civic engagement among Arab Americans.
The group worked with politicians to introduce legislation to improve hate crime reporting after discovering that the murders of Khalid Jabara, a Lebanese American killed by his neighbor in 2016, and Heather Heyer, who was killed during the 2017 white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, were unreported in FBI data.