September 22, 2017

Rise in hate crimes across major US cities

By Safya Khan-Ruf, journalist

Streets in the US are getting more dangerous for minorities. Latest research shows a 5% rise in hate crimes across the United States last year. Several states with Democrat leanings and many of the largest US cities had significantly higher increases. Researchers cite “emboldened” white nationalists as hate flourishes in the Trump era.

The study, Hate Crime Analysis & Forecast, published by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSUSB) at California State University, San Bernardino, also shows a dramatic spike in the number of crimes targeting people based on their race, religion, sexuality, disability or national origin in 2017.

Four of the five largest cities in the US experienced double-digit percentage increases. Hate crimes in Chicago rose 20% in 2016, 24% in New York City, 50% in Philadelphia and 62% in Washington DC.

This is the first time in over a decade that the country has had a consecutive annual increase in hate crime.

The Trump era

The CSUSB report is seen as a reliable indicator of official FBI hate crime statistics, released each year in November. The findings show the most comprehensive hate crime data in the run-up to last year’s presidential election. It backs up alarming anecdotal evidence of revitalised bigotry.

The FBI has always registered a spike in hate crimes during presidential election years but the 2016 spike was particularly significant.

“What is so unusual about 2016 ― with the exception of the Midwest ― and particularly among the largest jurisdictions with the best data, was a clear and dramatic spike for the election period that was unlike anything I can recall in my professional career,” said Brian Levin, director of CSUSB. 

Levin forecasts even greater levels of hate crimes across the five largest American cities in 2017. He specifies his data does not even include prominent suspected hate crimes in the last few months such as the stabbing of two Samaritans in Portland, the racial stabbing of an African American man in New York City and the fatal attack in Charlottesville – all by avowed white supremacists.

“While racial nationalists do not commit most hate crimes, these hardened hatemongers are disproportionately responsible for the sliver of hate crimes that are homicides,” the report states.

The victims

Victims of hate crimes varied across cities. Jews were the most frequent target in New York City and Montgomery Country, MD, while the LGBT community was the most targeted in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and Washington DC.

Of the seven cities that broke down anti-Muslim hate crime, six saw increases.

Anti-black hate crimes have nationally been the most common since data collection began 25 years ago, although the proportion has been shrinking.

The study comes just weeks after the events in Charlottesville, where one person was killed and many others injured after a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters during an altercation between alt-right extremists and anti-racists.

Trump was widely criticised for his response when he condemned the incident, placing the blame on the “many sides” present rather than pointing the finger at the white-supremacist groups who marched through the town calling out Nazi-inspired slogans.