WASHINGTON -- Hate crime incidents rose nearly 8 percent last year, the FBI reported Monday, as civil rights advocates increasingly take to the streets to protest what they call official indifference to intimidation and attacks against blacks and other minorities.
Police across the nation reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of bias against a race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. That was up 7.8 percent from 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.
More than half the incidents were motivated by racial prejudice, but the report did not pick up all the racially motivated incidents last year.
Although the noose incidents and beatings among students at Jena, La., high school occurred in the last half of 2006, they were not included in the report. Only 12,600 of the nation's more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies participated in the hate crime reporting program in 2006 and neither Jena nor LaSalle Parish, in which the town is located, were among the agencies reporting.
Nevertheless, the Jena incidents, and a subsequent rash of noose and other racial incidents around the country, have spawned civil rights demonstrations that culminated last week at Justice Department headquarters.
The two most frequent hate crimes in 2006 were property damage or vandalism, at 2,911 offenses, and intimidation, at 2,046 offenses. There were 3 murders, 6 rapes, 860 aggravated assaults, 1,447 simple assaults and 41 arsons. Other offenses included robbery, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
The 7,722 hate crime incidents involved 9,080 specific criminal offenses, include 5,449 against individuals, 3,593 against property and 38 classified as against society at large. A single incident can be aimed at both people and property.
Since the FBI began collecting hate crime data in 1991, the most frequent motivation has been racial bias, accounting for 51.8 percent of incidents in 2006, down from the 54.7 in 2005.
Also in 2006, religious bias was blamed for 18.9 percent of the incidents; sexual orientation bias for 15.5 percent, and ethnic or national origin -- for 12.7 percent.
"This FBI report confirms ... that hate crimes protections for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are long overdue," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group. Solmonese called on Congress to pass pending legislation that would expand the federal hate crime statute to cover crimes motivated by sexual orientation. The law currently covers only crimes based on race, color, religious or national origin.
Lack of full participation by the more than 17,000 police agencies around the nation somewhat undermines year-to-year comparisons.
For instance, in 2004, 12,711 agencies reported 7,649 incidents. In 2005, only 12,417 agencies reported and incidents dropped 6 percent to 7,163. But in 2006, agencies reporting rose to 12,620 and incidents climbed 7.8 percent to 7,722.
In 2006, police identified 7,330 offenders; 58.6 percent white, 20.6 percent black, 12.9 percent race unknown and the rest other races. Thirty-one percent of incidents occurred near residences; 18 percent on roads; 12.2 percent at colleges or schools, 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages, 3.9 percent at churches, synagogues or temples, and the remainder elsewhere.