The number of reported hate crimes in the U.S. increased about 8 percent last year, and a slight majority, 52 percent, were racially motivated, says an FBI compilation cited by Gannett News Service. The hate crime total rose from 7,163 in 2005 to 7,722 in 2006. Civil rights officials and civil liberties groups complain that reporting inconsistencies are rife in a system that lets local law enforcement agencies decide which offenses qualify as hate crimes and how to categorize them.
A total of 17,456 agencies report crime statistics to the FBI. Of those, 12,620 filed reports of hate crimes in 2006. Civil rights groups note that Alabama, a state with a history of racial tensions, reported no hate crimes a few years ago. The state reported one hate crime for 2006. “Maybe things have gotten better in Alabama – I hope,” said Christopher Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union. “But I don’t think they’ve gotten that good.” The number of agencies reporting hate crimes has slowly increased over the years, but federal officials say it’s still difficult for some local agencies to determine which offenses qualify.