Washington DC: The number of hate crime incidents across the United States reached a 16-year high in 2018, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said on Tuesday (local time), with a significant upswing in violence against Latinos outpacing a drop in assaults targeting Muslims and Arab-Americans.
The statistics released in the annual Hate Crime Statistics report are a compilation of bias-motivated incidents submitted to the FBI by 16,039 law enforcement agencies.
The new report collected data from 110 fewer agencies than 2017`s, The New York Times reported after citing the data.
While crimes against property were down, physical assaults against people were up, accounting for 61 per cent of the 7,120 incidents classified as hate crimes by law enforcement officials nationwide in 2018, just 55 fewer than had been reported in 2017.
Between 2016 and 2017, the FBI found a 17 per cent increase in reported incidents.
The report said there were 4,571 reported hate crimes against people in 2018, many of them in America`s largest cities, involving victims from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a "criminal offence against a person or property, motivated in whole or in part by an offender`s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity."
Victims of hate crimes can include institutions, religious organisations and government entities as well as individuals.
"The trends show more violence, more interpersonal violence, and I think that`s probably reliable," James Nolan, a former FBI crime analyst, told the NYT.
Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University was further quoted as saying that the data points toward a change from young people committing vandalism and other property crimes toward more deliberate attacks on people.
"We`re seeing a shift from the more casual offender with more shallow prejudices to a bit more of an older assailant who acts alone," Levin said.
"There`s a diversifying base of groups that are being targeted. We`re getting back to more violence," the analyst added.
Meanwhile, immigration has replaced terrorism as a top concern in the United States, according to national surveys.
The FBI said that 485 hate crimes against Latinos were reported in 2018, up from 430 in 2017. It said 270 crimes were reported against Muslims and Arab-Americans, the fewest since 2014.
Hate crimes against Latinos were at their highest level since 2010, when the unemployment rate and border crossings from Mexico were both peaking.
The new data also showed that bias against Jews comprised 57.8 per cent of reported offences motivated by religion, followed by 14.5 per cent of reported offences targeting Muslims.
Among people targeted due to sexual orientation, 59.8 per cent of reported offences involved anti-gay bias against males.
In addition, experts say that more than half of all victims of hate crimes never file a complaint with the authorities in the first place.