At more than 6,100, hate crimes across the country are on the rise, up from about 5,800 in 2015.
The FBI released 2016’s report this week after analyzing data from more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies.
The report shows an increase in incidents motivated by religious bias, second to race, ethnicity and ancestry bias.
“These biases have been around for decades, centuries, and so, when they hear them, I think it sort of stings,” said Rev. Dr. Carol Flett, member, Montgomery County’s Faith Community Advisory Council. “People are just being targeted as part of a group, as if that group is something that should be removed.”
More than half of religious-biased offenses were anti-Jewish.
“I’ve talked with some Jewish women, specifically, who said they’ve never before felt frightened to live in this country,” Flett said.
“There’s a sense of insecurity,” said Rabbi Batya Blazer, member, Montgomery County’s Faith Community Advisory Council. “There’s a sense that we need to be vigilant. People don’t feel entirely safe.”
The local level largely mirrors national statistics.
Of Montgomery County’s 94 bias-related incidents in 2016, 46 were motivated by race and ethnicity and 38 by religion.
It is important to note that not all of these incidents qualified as hate crimes.
But regardless, police said on the local and national level, these numbers can only say so much.
“The hardest part investigating these cases is a lot of times we have no suspect information to go on,” said Officer Rick Goodale, Montgomery County Police Department. “A lot of times, there will be flyers left at mailboxes [and] flyers posted on doors.”
Law enforcement and fire and rescue officials meet with the community several times a year at the newly-branded, Multicultural Dialogues Against Bias.
Organized by the Faith Community Working Group, the meetings aim to establish trust across career fields and faith groups.