Murders driven by hate reached a record high in 2019, while hate crimes rose to their highest levels in more than a decade, according to recently released FBI statistics.
The drastic increase in homicides driven by hate was reflected in large part by the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, in which authorities said a gunman fueled by hate toward Hispanics attacked a Walmart in August 2019, shooting to death 23 people and injuring many others.
There were 51 hate murders last year, the FBI reported Monday, nearly double the 24 victims reported in 2018.
Of 15,588 law enforcement agencies reporting to the FBI, 2,172 reported 7,314 hate crime incidents involving 8,559 offenses, meaning some incidents involved multiple criminal charges or victims.
The FBI collects data on crimes motivated by bias toward race, ethnicity or gender identity. Last year marked the third straight year that number surpassed 7,100 incidents and it was the highest number since the federal agency began collecting such statistics in 2008.
Those numbers are considered to be lower than the actual number of hate crimes because many victims don't report such incidents and states are not required to give hate crime statistics to the FBI.
“It’s important to note that, because of the nature of hate crime reporting, the FBI’s annual report vastly understates the real level of hate crimes in the country,” the Southern Poverty Law Center said in a statement Monday.
The center, a civil rights advocacy group which tracks hate groups, noted the number of cases has increased along with a surge in white supremacy groups. According to the SPLC, white nationalist groups grew by 55% between 2017 and 2019.