According to a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report released this week, the incidence of bias motivated crimes increased by eight percent in 2006.

The report, Hate Crimes Statistics 2006, says that hate crimes based on sexual orientation are the third most common type of hate crimes, behind race and religion. In 2006, hate crimes based on sexual orientation made up nearly 16 percent of all hate crimes, up from 14 percent in 2005.

This information comes as the US Congress is set to discuss a bill that currently includes an amendment that would expand hate crimes protections to include crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity and provide local law enforcement with additional resources to combat violent crimes.

“This FBI report confirms what the Human Rights Campaign has known for over a decade – that hate crimes protections for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are long overdue,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “We urge Congress to send this legislation immediately to the President’s desk, and for the President to sign it into law.”

Each year the FBI releases statistics of bias-motivated crime in the United States. While thousands of crimes are reported by hundreds of jurisdictions each year, it is believed this is only a fraction of the actual number of hate crimes that occur in any given year.

Reporting by state and local authorities to the FBI is voluntary and many jurisdictions lack the time and training to effectively report each incident of bias-motivated violence that occurs in a year.

FBI statistics show that in 2006, 2,105 law enforcement agencies reported 7,722 hate crime incidents involving 9,080 offenses. This is an increase from the 2005 report in which 2,037 law enforcement agencies reported 7,163 incidents involving 8,380 offenses.

Violent crimes based on race-related bias were by far the most common, representing 51.8 percent of all offenses for 2006. Violent crimes based on religion represented 18.9 percent and ethnicity/national origin, 12.7 percent.

Violent crimes based on sexual orientation constituted 15.5 percent of all hate crimes in 2006, with 1,195 reported for the year. This is an increase from the 2005 report where hate crimes based on sexual orientation totaled 14.2% of incidents reported (1,017). The FBI does not report hate crimes based on gender identity.

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