Hate crimes rise according to FBI statistics

Hate crimes rise according to FBI statistics

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Hate crimes nationally and in Arizona increased in 2016, according to the annual hate crime statistics released by the FBI.

There were 6,100 have crimes in 2016, up five percent from 2015.

But Tucson and Pima County are bucking the national trend. Hate crimes have dropped significantly in the past four years.

In 2013, there were 26 reported hate crimes, but only five in 2016.

In Tucson, a majority of hate crimes are about sexual orientation and not ethnic, race, or religiously motivated.

Even though that is the case, the numbers can be misleading.

"Many cases go unreported," said Adam Ragan,  Associate Director of LGBTQ Initiatives at the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation. "I think moments of harassment don't get reported often."

Those include verbal insults, which on the surface don't appear to be hate crimes, they can lead to much worse.

"Often the accuser may become bolder and then begin stepping things up," Ragan said. "All it takes is one moment for somebody to be harassed and that harassment turn into a violent hate crime."

On June 12, 2002, 24-year-old Phillip Walsted was beaten to death for no other reason than being gay. His attacker is serving a life term.

There could be several reasons why Tucson has seen a considerable drop in hate crimes.

Tucson is a diverse city which is welcoming to immigrants, refugees and non-native born. The diverse population likely leads to more tolerance but that does not mean it will lead to the elimination of hate crimes.

"I think no matter how much you embrace the LGBTQ community, there are still people out there who have the misunderstanding that it's a choice," Ragan said. "If its a choice then they believe they don't have to accept somebody who's not like me."

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