Most hate crimes in SC driven by race, religion, but incidents motivated by sexual orientation rising

FBI Hate Crimes
Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 8:53 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The number of reported incidents of hate crimes in South Carolina dropped slightly from 2020 to 2021, according to the FBI, which released new data Monday that shows reported incidents also decreased nationwide in that time.

Last year, law enforcement agencies reported 106 incidents of hate crimes around South Carolina, a small decrease from the 110 reported in 2020.

But that only reflects numbers that local law enforcement agencies voluntarily gave the FBI, as they are not required to report these statistics.

Nationwide, about 30% fewer agencies reported 2021 data compared to 2020 data, which the FBI attributed to a new reporting system.

But in South Carolina, more agencies reported last year’s numbers than the year before, with about 87% of them disclosing their 2021 figures.

“There are likely a lot of reports that have not been submitted to us or we’re not aware of right now. So I think it does give us some sort of sense of understanding of what is going on in the country,” FBI spokesperson Kevin Wheeler said.

While the number of reported incidents of hate crimes in South Carolina slightly dipped from 2020 to 2021, they are nearly double the 57 reported just a few years ago in 2019.

The FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program classifies hate crimes as criminal offenses motivated by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.

Race, ethnicity, or ancestry was the motivating bias in 49 of South Carolina’s 106 total reported hate crime incidents last year, with religion right behind it at 32.

The FBI says both nationwide and in South Carolina, it’s seeing an uptick in hate crimes reported because of sexual orientation. In 2021, 19 hate crime incidents in the state were reported to have been motivated by sexual orientation, compared to the 12 reported the year before.

“It’s very difficult to say what we can attribute that to, but it’s something that we certainly need to pay attention to and make sure that we are reaching out to that community, the LGBTQ-plus community, to make sure that they’re comfortable with reporting hate crimes to law enforcement,” Wheeler said.

Meanwhile, South Carolina remains one of just two states without a state hate crimes law, despite repeated attempts over the years to establish one.

Bills have already been filed at the State House ahead of the new legislative session next month to bring forward that push once again.

Among their supporters are some members of law enforcement, including Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who recently renewed his call to pass this legislation while attending a vigil outside the State House for victims of a mass shooting an LGBTQ-plus nightclub in Colorado.

“We need to send a message to those in South Carolina that hate, that we’re not going to tolerate it,” Lott said.

But during the most recent push for a hate crimes law earlier this year, a bill that passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support stalled and ultimately died in the Senate, where the same members are returning next year.

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