Hate crimes increased by 9 percent in Massachusetts last year since 2016 and 17 percent nationwide, rising for the third year in a row nationwide, the FBI reported Tuesday.
The 7,175 incidents reported nationwide in 2017 reflect not only more crimes, but also more law enforcement agencies that provide data to the FBI. According to the agency, almost 900 additional departments submitted data on hate crimes in 2017 that had done so in 2016.
The annual report does not detail the reported crimes, but Massachusetts had a series of incidents related to race and religion last year. The New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston was destroyed twice.
White supremacist graffiti was painted with spray on a Marblehead causeway. Students at a Norfolk high school were suspended for harassing a classmate and the student's mother with "inappropriate and racist insults." The tombstones were demolished in a Jewish cemetery in Melrose.
A local human rights defender said the continued prevalence of hate crimes is discouraging.
"It's a wake-up call for everyone to get involved … because the consequences are tragic," Eva A. Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Coalition, said in an interview.
He said that the growing numbers reflect the rise of nationalist organizations and right-wing racist and xenophobic groups that foment racial divisions.
That rhetoric that Millona said, "is like sending the information that" it's okay to say what you need to say. . . about foreigners, or minorities, or people of color. "
A total of 427 hate crimes were reported in Massachusetts in 2017, compared to 391 in 2016, according to the FBI. Of the incidents of 2017, 232 were related to race, ethnic origin or ancestry; 118 were related to the religion of the victims; and 65 were based on their sexual orientation.
Tanisha M. Sullivan, president of the Boston chapter of the NAACP, said statistics show that Massachusetts has more work to do to combat hate crimes.
"The data remind us that even here in the Commonwealth, where we strive to be inclusive and welcoming, we are not immune to hate crimes," he said. "We need to continue to make sure that we are doing everything possible, both reactive and proactive, to maintain an inclusive culture here in the Commonwealth."
Approximately 60 percent of the crimes reported nationally were based on the victim's race, ethnicity or ancestry, according to the report, while almost 21 percent were based on religion, and 16 percent It was based on sexual orientation.
The remaining incidents were based largely on disability, gender or gender identity, although 69 hate crimes reported that affected 335 victims were motivated by more than one bias, according to the FBI.
In Massachusetts, reports of incidents based on disability and gender identity remained in single digits high, while those for crimes related to gender identity decreased, from 16 in 2016 to 9 in 2017.
Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Policy Coalition, said the new statistics hit especially this week. Activists prepare on Sunday to observe the International Day of Transgender Remembrance, which was founded after the murder 20 years ago of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who lived in Allston.
"This is really poignant at the moment we are preparing to read the names and honor those who have been killed," he said, "so we can remember that there is a lot of work to be done."
Dunn said the statistics do not fully reflect violence against transgender people, particularly trans women of color.
Dunn said he had listened anecdotally to transgender people who were harassed at school or discriminated in the workplace by a question on the ballot to overturn the state's public accommodations law for transgender people. The question on the ballot was defeated by a margin of 2 to 1.
Dunn said he has also witnessed a growing embrace of transgender people by communities and loved ones.
"In many ways, things are improving. I'm seeing more family acceptance than ever. . . but that does not necessarily mean that it is improving in all spheres, "he said.
In recent days, LGBTQ spaces in Boston have been attacked. DBar of Dorchester and the Alley Bar
According to the Boston police, in the center of Pi Alley the center received threatening phone calls.
The employees contacted the police to report the incidents. But advocates said some victims of hate crimes fear harassment or violence if they contact the police. They may also believe that crimes against vulnerable populations will not be taken seriously.
"It is important for residents to see that when these situations arise, when hate crimes are reported, they are vigorously investigated," Sullivan said.
He added that when victims are afraid to come forward, civil rights groups can help ensure that they have someone on their side.
"This is where organizations like NAACP and other social justice organizations can play a crucial role as a bridge to enforce the law," he said.
Jeremy C. Fox can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.