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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hate crime reports in Spokane spike in 2017

Reported hate crimes in Spokane rose by 175 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to new data released Tuesday by the FBI.

It’s a comparatively large increase in Spokane’s hate crime report history. The city had 11 reports filed in 2014, 12 in 2015 before reports dipped to eight in 2016 and then spiked to 22 in 2017.

The FBI released data for all cities and states in the U.S.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said he doesn’t see more hate crimes in the county, but believes the increase in Spokane is an indicator that more are being reported.

“People are more vigilant and are reporting more of those types of activity,” he said. “They are hypersensitive to the issue.”

In Washington state, hate crime reports increased 61 percent from 308 in 2014 to 513 in 2017, according to the FBI reports. Nationally, reports increased from 5,479 in 2014 to 7,175 in 2017, a 30 percent increase.

From 2014 to 2017, Spokane’s reported numbers have increased by 100 percent, exceeding the growth rate of the state and the country.

Among the 22 hate crime reports filed in the city last year, the most common were motivated by race, ethnicity and ancestry, according to the FBI report. That’s compared to two motivated by religion, three motivated by sexual orientation and one motivated by gender.

There are inconsistencies among reporting agencies. The FBI’s methodology in 2017 included about 1,000 more agencies that reported the numbers than the year before – all agencies report on a voluntary basis. Not all agencies report hate crime numbers, according to the Associated Press, which found in 2016 that 2,700 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. did not report any hate crimes in the past six years.

It’s not clear which agencies in Spokane County did not participate in the latest survey. Still, Knezovich is encouraging people to report hate crimes “because if you don’t, then we don’t have a clear picture of what we’re dealing with,” he said.

Acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement that hate crimes are “despicable violations of our core values as Americans.”

“This report is a call to action – and we will heed that call,” he said in the statement. “The Department of Justice’s top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes.”

Anti-Semitic hate crimes in the country rose 37 percent within a year, according to the Associated Press.

The FBI defines a hate crime as “a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias,” according to its website.