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Hate Crime Reports In Massachusetts Hit 10-Year High

The number of hate crimes reported to the state increased by almost 10 percent to a 10-year high in 2017, the state said in a new report that also found a majority of law enforcement agencies reported they had experienced no bias-motivated incidents last year.

The 438 hate crime offenses reported to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security in 2017 came from 86 municipal police departments, 12 campus police agencies, one hospital and the MBTA.

Another 256 agencies submitted "zero reports," which EOPSS said confirms that the agencies recorded no hate crimes, and 55 agencies did not report to the state. The state received a total of 427 reports.

More hate crimes were reported to the state last year than any other year in the last decade, the state said. After a surge to about 500 bias-motivated crimes per year from 2000 to 2002, the numbers declined to an average of roughly 350 per year from 2003 through 2015, the state said.

"Over the past 16 years, the numbers and the categories of bias motivations have remained fairly consistent," EOPSS said in its annual hate crimes report. "The 427 incidents reported in 2017 were the highest in over a decade."

Boston reported the most hate crimes (140) of any jurisdiction in 2017, 10 times as many as the next leading municipality. Arlington reported 14 incidents, Newton and Quincy each reported 12, and Salem and Westfield State University each reported 10 incidents to the state.

The most common offense in 2017 was vandalism/damage/destruction of property, which accounted for 37.9 percent of reported incidents, followed by intimidation at 29.7 percent, simple assault at 17.8 percent and aggravated assault at 8.4 percent.

Prejudice against race, ethnicity or national origin was the most widely reported bias motivation for hate crimes in 2017, representing 53.9 percent of the total. Bias against religious groups was the second most common motivation, with 26 percent of the total, and sexual orientation bias was third with 14.4 percent, the state said.

The new state data comes while EOPSS develops a new state website local law enforcement will be able to use to report hate crimes to the state and as a task force revived last year by Gov. Charlie Baker continues to study ways to curb such crimes in Massachusetts.

Based on the group's work so far, the governor has already suggested that all law enforcement agencies designate at least one officer to serve as the department's point person on all hate crimes and that all agencies should require that officer to report any criminal act that appears to be motivated by bias to the website EOPSS is developing.

The governor's Hate Crimes Task Force was assembled last year to shape the state's policies and practices around hate crimes. The task force was launched after a report of a rise in anti-Semitism in New England.

According to the Anti-Defamation League's annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, there were 177 anti-Semitic acts of vandalism, harassment or assault in Massachusetts in 2017. Anti-Semitic incidents rose by 254 percent over 2015, when the ADL reported 50 such incidents.

The hate crimes data collected by EOPSS, after a quality check, will be submitted to the FBI for further analysis, verification and inclusion in the federal law enforcement agency's annual Hate Crime Statistics publication.

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