GREAT LAKES BEACON

Hate Crimes See 23% Increase in Michigan

Hate crime incidents in 2016 increased 23 percent from 2015, the Michigan State Police showed in its annual report, and was once again dominated by racial incidents, which made up 70 percent of the reported bias motivation victims.

All told, the State Police (MSP) recorded 583 “bias motivation victims” – more simply, victims of hate crimes – in 2016 compared to 495 in 2015, an 18 percent increase. The number of offenders and offenses also increased 16 and 18 percent, respectively. White offenders accounted for 68 percent of the known offenders, the MSP report indicated.

Michigan has come under scrutiny, especially since the election of President Donald Trump, for its number of hate crimes. In fact, it had the highest number of “bias crimes” in the Midwest post-election, according to a report released by Southern Poverty Law Center at the end of last year.

And the state’s Department of Civil Rights reported a “sharp increase” in the number of calls received after the November election. Specifically, the department received 40 calls from residents reporting they were victims of bias crimes, compared with about 23 on an average day, the Detroit Free Press had reported.

The MSP report on reported hate crimes from 2016 noted anti-black victims increased more than 20 percent (from 187 to 239 in 2016), but reported anti-Hispanic or Latino victims nearly doubled (from 10 to 17), as did what MSP classifies as anti-other race/ethnicity/ancestry (it classifies American Indian/Alaskan Native, Arab, Asian, multi-racial and white in addition to black and Hispanic/Latino).

According to the report, Anti-Arab incidents actually decreased from 31 to 17 in 2016.

Michigan’s Ethnic Intimidation Act allows for stricter penalties for hate crimes, but it’s important to note that with any of these numbers, they rely on not only on the reporting of the incident, but also the determination by police to classify it as a hate crime incident.

Hate crimes against one’s religion accounted for the second-most bias in 2016 compared to 2015, accounting for 15 percent of all hate crimes in 2016. The highest increases were seen in Anti-Islamic (from 27 to 37) and anti-Jewish (from 12 to 18 in 2016) victims, as well as anti-multi-religious group (from one to seven).

Anti-Catholic incidents decreased by two (from 8 to 6) in 2016. The MSP also added the subsection of anti-other Christian hate crimes, which accounted for less than 10 percent of the 86 hate crimes against religion (specifically, five reported incidents).

Hate crimes against sexual orientation held steady at 12 percent of all hate crime incidents in 2016, but anti-female homosexual hate crimes doubled from 2015. Also slightly increasing were anti-homosexual (generic) hate crimes, which went from 23 in 2015 to 30 in 2016. Anti-male homosexual hate crimes decreased slightly last year, from 29 reported incidents to 25.

Although the percentage held steady, it should be noted that the Ethnic Intimidation Act does not currently technically offer protections for victims of hate crimes specific to sexual orientation or gender identity – something some state legislators and advocates are trying to change through grassroots root and legislation.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson