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Arizona expert predicts rise of US hate crimes after jump in 2016 data

(AP photo)

PHOENIX — Hate crimes in America increased nearly 5 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to FBI data released on Monday.

More than six thousand attacks motivated by bias were reported last year, including an increased number of attacks against Jews, Blacks, Muslims and people in the LGBT community.

Dr. Richard Bloom, director of Terrorism, Intelligence and Security Studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, said he thinks there is one reason why the hate crimes increased.

“The issue is it’s much easier than it used to be to get people angry,” he said.

The lion share of the victims — almost 60 percent — were targeted because of their race or ethnicity. More than half of those crimes were reported against the African-American community.

But Bloom cautioned people to recognize that, while the U.S. presidential campaign and election were factors, it is important to understand that an increase in hate crimes is occurring worldwide.

Generally speaking, Bloom attributed the continuously-increasing violence to a new world of telecommunications.

“More and more people are having access to this new world of telecommunications in which we live, and, unfortunately, I think more and more violent behavior is going to occur,” he said.

The most religious attacks were against Jewish people, followed by another year of increased attacks against Muslims.

“It is so easy for any individual these days to look at certain kinds of information, and not other kinds of information,” Bloom said. “To look for information that would agree with what they think and avoid other information that might be disconfirming.”

The increase of social media and the internet has also allowed people to find encouragement to act violently.

“It’s almost as if you can create your own little psychological world with telecommunications capabilities,” Bloom said. “That makes it easier to like certain kinds of people, dislike others and to act on that both for good and for bad.”

Bloom hesitated to react specifically to the FBI’s data because the incidents are submitted or collected voluntarily from police agencies around the nation, he said.

“There’s no question that the information collected, one, is incomplete, and two, [is] certainly not a random sample of all hate crimes,” he said.

Bloom also added that there are new definitions of hate crimes added each year, and it remains to be seen how that will change the data moving forward.

“Because of people who are sophisticated in using social media and other kinds of telecommunications to anger people, to negatively influence people, new categories will be created,” he said. “That will have [a] significant effect on how much hate-related crime will occur in the coming year.”

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