FBI report shows 17 percent spike in hate crimes nationwide in 2017

Maryland law enforcement agencies received 398 reports of hate or bias last year — alleged incidents that ranged from vandalism and intimidation to threats and attacks, according to the State Police and hundreds of pages of records reviewed by The Baltimore Sun after a public information request. The reported incidents represented an increase of 35 percent from 2016 — and a pace of more than one report a day. (Catherine Rentz, Ulysses Muñoz, Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)

The number of hate crimes rose 17 percent across the country in 2017, according to new data released by the FBI on Tuesday. It marks the third year in a row hate crimes have increased.

Federal data show there were 7,175 reported hate crimes last year, up from 6,121 reported in 2016. Anti-Arab crimes doubled from last year, to 102. Anti-Jewish hate crimes surged 37 percent to 938. Anti-African American crimes, which represented the top bias, rose 16 percent, to 2,013.


"Last year's data is simply a raft of distressing news including it being the third consecutive annual increase,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.

Criminologists have cited the increasing diversity of the U.S. population, the spread of white nationalism, and decreasing trust in institutions as some of the contributors to the increase in reported incidents. Levin said the 2016 presidential election seems to have served as a sort of catalyst of hate crimes.

Regional leaders have raised alarms over the reported rise.

“It is clear that hateful rhetoric and speech leads to hate crimes,” said Doron Ezickson, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “When it is allowed or normalized in our public square without condemnation, especially from our leaders, it gives a green light to keep spouting it — and acting on it. This FBI report confirms this, and Maryland is no exception.”

(Baltimore Sun Graphic)

Zainab Chaudry, spokeswoman for Council on American-Islamic Relations, pointed directly at the White House.

“The significant spike in reported hate crimes in America for at least the third consecutive year is in part a direct consequence of bigotry and xenophobia being emboldened under the Trump administration,” she said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun.

The most recent FBI report shows there were 48 hate crimes in Maryland last year, up 14 percent from the year before, though the FBI’s data for Maryland is flawed.

In 2016, about half of the agencies reporting such crimes in Maryland failed to submit their reports before the FBI cutoff date, a Maryland State Police spokesperson said. It is unclear whether any agencies missed this year’s FBI deadline. State police were unable to respond to an inquiry from The Sun about any missing data before this publication of this article. Maryland law enforcement agencies have a deadline to report their crimes to state police that is three months after the FBI deadline.


Experts also sound a warning about the overall FBI data: It’s based on voluntary reporting from more than 15,000 police agencies across the country, and hate crimes generally are underreported to police.

Levin said only two years had higher increases since the FBI began collecting the data in the early 1990s: Hate crimes jumped 34 percent in 1995 and 21 percent in 2001.

Amid a rash of hate incidents, officials in Anne Arundel County are scrambling to address the problem — with plans to submit legislation, change school curriculum and improve prosecution of hate crimes.

A previous Baltimore Sun investigation found that Maryland law enforcement agencies received 398 reports of hate or bias last year — an increase of 35 percent.

The incidents, which are collected by state police as required by state law, reflect more than hate crimes. The law requires Maryland police agencies to report any incidents seemingly directed against an individual or group because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity or homelessness.

As a result, the state police count many more incidents than the FBI, which counts only alleged crimes.

For example, the recent distributions of Ku Klux Klan fliers in Anne Arundel County and Baltimore City are not hate “crimes” that would be reported to the FBI, but they are hate “incidents” reported to local police.


Of the incidents reported in 2017 to state police, about half, or 183, were verified by police, meaning the incidents were determined to have been motivated by hate or bias.

Most — 52 percent — were classified as “inconclusive;” police could not determine whether the incidents were based on hate. That was often because authorities weren’t able to identify suspects to determine a motivation.

An investigation by Baltimore Sun reporter Catherine Rentz took a close look at all of the nearly 700 hate or bias reports filed over two years. Here's a look at what she found.

Amid a rash of hate incidents, officials in Anne Arundel County and beyond are working on initiatives to help address the hate with plans to submit legislation, change school curriculum and improve prosecution of hate crimes.

The FBI and Maryland State Police will be offering hate crime training in coming months to law enforcement officers to improve reporting.

A Sun analysis of hate incidents found that 80 percent of the state’s 161 law enforcement agencies reported no hate or bias incidents during the last two years. Reporting on the Eastern Shore of Maryland was especially thin: Caroline and Kent counties haven’t reported any hate or bias incidents over the last six years.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker says the report is a “call to action.” He says the offenses were “despicable violations of our core values as Americans.”

The FBI says that although the number of attacks has increased, so has the number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate-crime data.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.