US hate crime highest in more than a decade - FBI

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Mourners in El Paso Texas after a shooting there which killed 22 peopleImage source, EPA
Image caption,
A gunman in El Paso, Texas killed 22 people last year at a Walmart

Hate crimes in the US rose to the highest level in more than a decade last year, according to an FBI report.

Hate-motivated murders also rose to a record high in 2019, with 51 deaths - more than double the 2018 total.

Last August, 22 people were killed in a shooting targeting Mexicans at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

Hate crimes have been increasing in the US almost every year since 2014. Campaign groups warn this comes amid rising bigotry and racist rhetoric.

"The latest rise in hate crime signals a new brutal landscape, where targeted attacks against rotating victim groups not only result in spikes, but increases are also being driven by a more widely dispersed rise in the most violent offenses," said Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University.

The FBI's annual Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report says there were 7,314 hate crimes last year, up from 7,120 the year before - and the highest number since 7,783 were recorded in 2008.

A hate crime is defined in the report as offences "motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender, and gender identity".

The data showed a nearly 7% rise in religion-based hate crime, with a 14% increase in crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions.

It also found anti-Latino hate crime rose 8.7% from 485 in 2018 to 527 in 2019 to the highest total since 2010.

The killing of 22 people at the El Paso Walmart last year is the worst hate crime attack ever recorded by the FBI, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

Media caption,

El Paso shooting: 'My heart hurts on every level'

Black people were targeted in hate crimes more than any other group in the US. However, the FBI said the number of hate crimes against African Americans dropped slightly to 1,930, from 1,943.

Of all 4,930 victims of reported hate crimes motivated by race or ethnicity, 48.5% were "victims of crimes motivated by offenders' anti-Black or African American bias", compared with 15.7% as "victims of anti-White bias", 14.1% as "victims of anti-Hispanic or Latino bias" and 4.4% of "anti-Asian bias".

After the FBI report's release rights groups called for better reporting of and collection of information on hate crimes.

A press release from the Jewish civil rights group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said the data revealed "a harrowing trend of increasing hate crimes being reported in the United States, even as fewer law enforcement agencies provided data to the FBI".

"The total severity of the impact and damage caused by hate crimes cannot be fully measured without complete participation in the FBI's data collection process," ADL director Jonathan Greenblatt said.