By ANNE EASKER
PORT CHARLOTTE — In August 2017, a sign at the Islamic Society of Sarasota in Bradenton was spray-painted with the words “Islam is Cancer” and “terrorist.”
It was just one of thousands of hate crimes reported across the U.S. A recent study by SafeHomes.org analyzing FBI data indicates hate crimes rose by 22 percent nationwide from 2013 to 2017. Florida ranked eighth for states with the biggest increase in reported hate crimes in that period, at 102 percent.
While that’s bad news for the state, local data shows few hate crimes reported locally. However, the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates about two thirds of hate crimes are not reported to police.
Charlotte County had one hate crime reported per year from 2013 to 2017. Four of those were race-based, while one was based on sexual orientation, according to the FBI.
The graffiti at the Islamic Society was the only reported hate crime for Sarasota County from 2013 to 2017.
No arrest was made in that case. The president of the Islamic Society told cops there had been no recent issues that would point to a suspect, and the camera was too far from the sign to capture the crime, according to the incident report.
The FBI’s county data does not include municipalities. North Port had one hate crime in 2013 based on the victim’s sexual orientation and one race-based hate crime in 2015. Meanwhile, Venice had two religion-based hate crimes in 2013 and one race-based hate crime in 2015. There were no hate crimes reported in Punta Gorda for the time period.
The SafeHome.org study states race/ethnicity is the most common motivation in hate crimes nationwide, which matches up with regional data.
African Americans are the most frequently targeted group, making up 49 percent of victims in racially motivated offenses. For religious groups, Jews were the most commonly targeted at 58 percent, followed by Muslims at 19 percent. For crimes based on a person’s sexual orientation, 53 percent of victims were gay men.
For the perpetrators of these crimes, 51 percent were reportedly white, 21 percent African American, and 19 percent of an unknown race.
“Having a better understanding of the scope of this issue could help spur swifter and more effective political action,” the study states. “But prevention means building a strong community in which it’s clear to everyone that targeting anybody based on their race, sexual orientation, religion or other characteristic is unacceptable. This means reporting incidents you see, yes, but it also means sometimes having difficult conversations with the people closest to you.”