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FBI: Hate crimes on the rise
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FBI: Hate crimes on the rise

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

Reports of hate crimes against Gays and religious groups increased sharply in 2008, according to new data released by the FBI on November 23.

Overall, there were 7,783 criminal incidents reported last year. Those incidents involved 9,168 offenses. In 2007, there were 7,624 criminal incidents involving 9,006 offenses reported. The data finds the number of reported hate crimes increased about 2%.

These same figures show a nearly 11% increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and a nearly 9% increase in hate crimes based on religion. The largest category, racially motivated hate crimes, fell less than 1%.

Among all categories of hate crimes, roughly a third are vandalism or property damage. About 30% involve intimidation of some kind, and another 30% were physical attacks against people.

Of the criminal incidents, all but three were motivated by a single bias: 51.3% by race, 19.5% by religion, 16.7% by sexual orientation, 11.5% by ethnicity or national origin, 1% by disability.

Within the racial bias incidents, 72.6% were against blacks, while 17.3% against whites.

Gay men were the victims in most of the sexual orientation-bias attacks with 58.6%.

Anti-Jewish bias accounted for 65.7% of the religious bias attacks, while 7.7% of the attacks were against Muslims.

Hate crimes most frequently occurred in or near homes (31.9%). Highways, roads, alleys or streets accounted for 17.4%, schools accounted for 11.7%, parking lots accounted for 6.1%, and places of worship accounted for 6.1%.

The FBI does not compare year-to-year trends in hate crimes, because the number of agencies reporting the crimes changes too much. The FBI cautioned that the increase reported on November 23 might well be due to more agencies tracking such incidents.

The new statistics were released less than 30 days after President Obama signed a hate crimes bill that would expand those covered by the federal law. Previously, the law had protected those attacked on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.

The new law signed by Obama covers crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It also removes the restriction that federal authorities can launch investigations of victims who were engaged in federally protected activities like voting or free speech.

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