JACKSON – The FBI has released a report that shows hate crimes in Mississippi rose from two to 11 over the past year.
However, Nsombi Lambright, executive director for the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, tells The Clarion-Ledger she believes the number of hate crimes in Mississippi is much higher than the FBI report suggests.
Sometimes victims won’t report the crimes “because they are scared of retaliation,” she said. “You also have counties that are not reporting the incidents.”
Nationwide, hate crimes remained about the same, going from 6,604 in 2009 to 6,628 in 2010, according to the FBI.
Of the 63 participating agencies in Mississippi, Gulfport was the only one to report a hate crime in 2010. More than two-thirds of Mississippi’s counties failed to file a report with the Justice Department.
Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, said he believes the total number of hate crimes is much higher. “There have been two major Justice Department studies and the upshot is the real level is about 200,000 hate crimes a year.”
One reason is “more than half of hate crimes are never reported,” he said.
Of the hate crimes reported nationally to the FBI, nearly half were motivated by race while religion made up a fifth of the attacks. Sexual orientation made up 19 percent of the crimes, and nearly 13 related to ethnicity or national origin. Less than 1 percent related to disabilities.
Nearly a third of hate crimes took place near homes or residences, the FBI reported.
Another 17 percent took place on highways, roads, streets or alleys. Nearly 11 percent took place at schools or colleges.
While religion motivated about a fifth of the hate crimes, less than 4 percent actually took place on the property of churches, synagogues or temples, according to the report.
Of the 6,008 known offenders, nearly 59 percent were white and more than 18 percent were black, the FBI said. The remainder included other races.