Hate crimes across the country were up 17 percent last year, according to the latest data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation out this week.
Phyllis Gerstenfeld has studied hate crimes at California State University for more than two decades.
She isn’t surprised at an uptick in hate crimes, but she is surprised by how big the uptick was.
“I suspect that what’s happening is some people feel more validated in their extremist beliefs because of the current political climate, so we’re seeing more crimes happening,” Gerstenfeld says.
At the same time, she says more people are reporting hate crimes.
In Idaho, the number of reports nearly doubled last year from 27 to 53. Utah also saw a double-digit jump.
Still, Gerstenfeld says the data is incomplete – police departments don’t have to report hate crimes to the FBI and she says many don’t.
“It’s usually an issue with local law enforcement priorities rather than a lack of anything happening in that location.”
This is the third year in a row hate crimes have been up in the U.S.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.