Hate crimes have jumped by nearly 20 percent in major U.S. cities through much of this year, after increasing nationally by 5 percent last year, according to police data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino.
The number of hate crimes in 13 cities with a population of over 250,000 rose to 827 incidents, up 19.9 percent from 690 reported during the same period last year, according to the study. Only two cities - Columbus, Ohio, and Riverside, California - posted declines.
Among the nation’s six largest cities, including New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, the number of hate incidents increased to 526 from 431 last year, up 22.4 percent, according to the study.
In New York City, hate crimes jumped 28.4 percent; in Los Angeles by 13 percent; in Philadelphia by 9 percent; in Chicago, by 8.3 percent, and in Phoenix, Arizona, by a whopping 46 percent. Houston, the nation’s No. 4 city, bucked the trend, reporting five incidents through July 31, the same number as last year.
Major hate crimes reported this year included the stabbing of an African-American man in New York City in March; the fatal stabbing of two men protecting a hijab-wearing Muslim woman in Portland, Oregon in May; and the killing of a protester in Charlottesville, Virginia last month.
All were committed by “avowed white supremacists,” said Brian Levin, director of the hate and extremism studies center in California.
If 2017 ends with an overall increase, it would mark the third consecutive annual rise in hate crimes, something not seen since 2004, according to Levin said.
What is a Hate Crime?
A hate crime is often defined as a violent crime motivated by hate based on race, color or national origin, among other factors.
Most hate crimes go unreported. According to a recent report by the federal government's Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of the 250,000 hate crimes that took place each year between 2004 and 2015 were not reported to the police.
The FBI’s annual hate crime report for 2016 is due in November. In 2015, the FBI recorded 5,850 hate crimes, up 7 percent from 5,479 incidents in 2014. Hate crimes targeting Muslims jumped 67 percent in 2015, the FBI said.
In addition to Muslims, the recent spate of hate-spurred violence has targeted Jews, African-Americans and members of the LGBTQ community, Levin said.
The California State University study comes just weeks after violent protests in Charlottesville shone a spotlight on violent racism. One person was killed and many others injured after a man with known white-supremacist views drove his car into a crowd of protesters.
President Donald Trump was widely criticized for equivocating in his condemnation of the incident, placing the blame on the "many sides" present in Charlottesville, rather than specifically criticizing the white-supremacist groups who gathered for the rally and marched through the town at night carrying flaming torches and calling out slogans reminiscent of fascist displays in Nazi Germany.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, speaking at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute this week, condemned the incident in Charlottesville, where “we saw and heard people openly advocate racism and bigotry, and commit terrible acts of violence.”
The Department of Justice is investigating the incident as an "act of domestic terrorism." DOJ "makes it a priority to investigate and prosecute federal hate crimes, particularly in places where local authorities fail to carry out their responsibility to protect civil rights," Rosenstein said.
Hate-crime rises in large cities tend to far outpace increases nationally. Even if the current trend continues for the rest of the year, the overall increase in U.S. hate crimes is likely to remain in the single digits.
The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism estimates that the number of hate crimes reported to police throughout the United States last year increased by about 5 percent, topping 6,000 incidents for the first time since 2012.
Levin, the center's director, said that hate crimes have increased during every presidential election since 1992.
Last year, he said, there were "profound spikes" in hate crimes around the Nov. 8 elections. In New York City, for example, 34 percent of all hate crimes reported during 2016 occurred after the vote.