Hate crimes in the U.S. increased by over six percent from 2014 to 2015, according to a recent report from the FBI. In total, the FBI catalogued 5,818 single-bias incidents in 2015, with Muslim Americans seeing the largest upswing in attacks.
The data comes amidst a surge in hate incidents following the presidential election. In the 10-day period after the Nov. 8 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center counted nearly 870 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation. Reported incidents included threats to Mosques, swastikas painted in public locations and physical and verbal attacks directed at minority groups.
While these figures highlight increasing numbers of hate crimes, they don't tell the full story. FindTheData, a reference data site by Graphiq, dug into the FBI's released data to unpack the numbers further.
In keeping with previous years, race remained the largest motivating bias for hate crimes, accounting for more than half of all bias incidents in the U.S. Note that in 2015, the FBI combined the categories of "race" and "ethnicity" into one group.
Although race remained the predominant motivating factor, it doesn't account for the recent surge in hate crimes. The proportion of hate incidents due to race and ethnicity remained relatively unchanged between 2014 and 2015. However, the incidence of hate crimes motivated by religion saw a more significant increase over that period, fueled primarily by anti-Muslim attacks.
In 2015, hate crimes against Muslims jumped 67 percent from the previous year -- reaching the highest level since the 9/11 attacks. The spike in anti-Muslim incidents coincides with increased fear of terrorist activity in the U.S. and abroad. While Muslim Americans experienced the greatest increase in hate crimes, Jewish Americans remained the most-targeted religious group. Over half of all religious hate crimes in the U.S. were anti-Jewish.
In addition to the type of bias, the FBI breaks down the geographic distribution of hate crimes in the U.S. Overall, there is no clear regional pattern as to which states experience the most hate crimes. Of the 50 states, North Dakota had the highest hate crime rate in 2015 with 7.66 incidents per 100,000 people. Massachusetts was a close second with 7.26 hate crimes per 100,000 people.
Some of the national variation in hate crime figures can be attributed to state-specific laws regarding hate crimes and reporting. For example, certain states, like Tennessee, have financial penalties for agencies that fail to report hate crimes, while others have no official hate crime laws at all. Therefore, inflated hate crime numbers in some states could reflect an increase in reporting, rather than an actual rise in incidents.
While the new FBI figures give an overview of hate crimes in the U.S., they should not be considered comprehensive for one alarming reason: the majority of hate crimes go unreported. In 2013, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that nearly two-thirds of hate crimes went unreported to police between 2007 and 2011. That same report also found that the number of people who believed the police could not or would not help nearly doubled.
Similarly, an investigation by The Associated Press found that roughly 17 percent of all city and county law enforcement agencies nationwide did not submit a single hate crime report for the FBI's annual crime tally over the past six years. For some Southern states like Mississippi and Louisiana, that number was greater than 50 percent. As Michael Lieberman, counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, said of the FBI report, "It is the most important data collection initiative, but it is far from complete."