The number of hate crimes reported last year rose by 4.6 percent compared to the previous year, according to data released Monday by the FBI.
The total tally of hate crimes in 2016 was 6,121, compared to 5,850 in 2015. More than half of those incidents were motivated by the victim’s race.
The FBI statistics are based on voluntary reporting by nearly 16,000 local law-enforcement agencies. Civil-rights groups, however, say the figures are deeply flawed because of what they say is systemic under-reporting.
The Anti-Defamation League, for example, noted that nearly 90 cities with populations of more than 100,000 either reported zero hate crimes or did not report data for 2016.
“There’s a dangerous disconnect between the rising problem of hate crimes and the lack of credible data being reported,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. He called for an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to get better nation-wide figures on the problem.
Sam Singh, the national advocacy manager of the Sikh Coalition, agreed. He noted that the FBI statistics count seven anti-Sikh hate crimes in 2016, which he said “represents the tip of the iceberg.”
“If law-enforcement agencies fail to document the true extent of hate crimes against our communities,” Singh said, “our nation will have a hard time mobilizing the political will and resources necessary to prevent and combat the problem.”
The only way to fix the data problem, he added, is for law enforcement to adopt mandatory hate crime reporting.
Still, the FBI data provides an overview of hate crimes across the country.
There were 7,509 victims of single-bias hate crime incidents, according to the reported numbers for 2016. A victim can be a person, a business, a government entity or a religious organization.
Nearly 59 percent of the victims were targeted because of their race. A further 21.1 percent were targeted because of religion, and 16.7 percent because of sexual-orientation.
Of the race-related incidents, more than half were anti-black, while some 20 percent were anti-white. More than half of the religious-related crimes, the statistics show, were anti-Jewish, while a quarter were anti-Muslim.
In cases where law enforcement was able to identify the perpetrator, 46.3 percent were white and 26.1 percent were black.