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The number of hate crimes reported in the United States rose last year to more than 6,100. That's according to new statistics released today by the FBI. Civil rights groups agree the number of hate crimes is on the rise, but they say this FBI data doesn't give the full picture. NPR's Ryan Lucas has more.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: The FBI's annual hate crime statistics are based on voluntary reporting by nearly 16,000 local law enforcement agencies across the country. The key word here, civil rights advocates say, is voluntary.
SIM SINGH: The problem with the FBI report is that police jurisdictions across the country are not required to report the data.
LUCAS: That's Sim Singh. He's with the Sikh Coalition.
SINGH: I think it definitely has value in trying to address some of the problems, but it needs to go further.
LUCAS: One clear example of underreporting is this. There were 92 cities with populations of more than 100,000 people that either reported zero hate crimes or didn't report at all.
MICHAEL LIEBERMAN: And that's just not credible.
LUCAS: That's Michael Lieberman of the Anti-Defamation League. Three of the 4 largest cities that didn't bother to report were in Florida - Miami, Jacksonville and St. Petersburg.
LIEBERMAN: For law enforcement not to be reporting these is really an unwelcome signal to the victims of hate crime.
LUCAS: And Lieberman says that when law enforcement doesn't report, it provides little incentive for individuals or communities to come forward in the future if they are targets of hate crimes. Of the data that was reported, here are some findings. Hate crimes are up nearly 5 percent compared to the previous year. And as in years past, race-based crimes are the most frequent. That's followed by crimes motivated by religious bias and then sexual orientation.
There was a significant jump in the number of hate crimes against Muslims in 2016. They're up 19 percent, although the Jewish community remains the most frequent target of religious-based hate crimes. The FBI report is a step in the right direction, but civil rights advocates say that getting fuller, more accurate statistics is crucial for addressing the problem of hate crimes. Again, Sim Singh...
SINGH: Data drives policy and guides problem-solving. So if lawmakers and the American public believe that hate crimes aren't a big problem, it's difficult to mobilize the political will that's necessary to combat the problem.
LUCAS: With better data comes more attention. With more attention comes accountability. And that, advocates say, would help drive resources to better train law enforcement officers on how to prevent hate crimes and how to respond to them when they do happen. Ryan Lucas, NPR News, Washington.
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