WASHINGTON – Hate crime incidents decreased slightly last year, despite a surge in crimes targeting gays and lesbians.
The FBI reported more than 7,600 hate crime incidents in 2007, down about 1 percent from last year. The decline was driven by decreases in the two largest categories of hate crimes — crimes against race and religion.
But prejudice against sexual orientation, the third-largest category, increased about 6 percent, the report found.
The FBI report does not compare its data from one year to the next because the number of law enforcement agencies participating in the annual count varies from year to year. More agencies contributed to the 2007 report than the 2006 report, however.
The data released Monday is consistent with previous years. Racial bias remained the most common motive, accounting for more than half of all reported hate crimes. Blacks, Jews and gays were the most frequent victims of hate crimes, the report found.
The FBI report is purely statistical and does not assign a cause for the slight overall decrease or increase in anti-gay hate crimes.
More than a third of all hate crime incidents were categorized as vandalism or property destruction. Intimidation was the second most common hate crime, followed by simple assault.
The report was based on data drawn from 13,241 law enforcement agencies nationwide, covering about 85 percent of the nation's population. By comparison, the broader crime report the FBI puts out every year draws data from about 17,000 law enforcement agencies.