Dallas saw a massive spike in hate crimes in 2018, according to FBI data released Tuesday.
The Dallas Police Department reported 31 such incidents to the FBI last year, more than double the previous year's number.
Angela Hale, acting CEO of Equality Texas, attributed the rise to hateful rhetoric by politicians.
"I think the main correlation is the political hate speech directed at different categories of people that then cause people to feel like they can go out and attack them," Hale said. "It puts LGBTQ people at risk. It puts African Americans at risk. It puts Jewish people, Latinos and immigrants at risk. It's a dangerous time that we live in today."
According to an annual FBI report released Tuesday, Dallas saw 15 crimes in 2018 motivated by bias against a race or ethnicity. Only two such incidents had been reported in 2017. Of the other incidents reported in 2018, 10 targeted a sexual orientation or gender identity.
The report comes during a period of increased awareness of violence being directed toward black transgender women in Dallas. At least four have been killed here in recent years.
Another, Daniela Calderon, was shot six times at a Northwest Dallas bus stop in September. She survived, and the Dallas Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime. Her case, which occurred in September, is not included in the FBI report, which covers only crimes committed in 2018. But it's part of a national trend of violence against black transgender women that the American Medical Association has characterized as an "epidemic."
Cheryl Drazin, Dallas' regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said that the rise in reported hate crimes coincided with a similar increase in anti-Semitic incidents in DFW, which rose in 2018 and has continued to rise through this year, according to reports cataloged by the ADL.
The number of reported hate crimes spiked across the state as well. But, Drazin explained, a lot of the rise is due to increased awareness and better reporting.
The FBI reports are historically incomplete. In 2018, only 12% of Texas law enforcement agencies reported data. And that, Drazin said, was nearly double the usual number.
But Drazin commends law enforcement agencies for taking the issue more seriously, citing a recent report from the International Association of Chiefs of Police that laid out guidelines for investigating hate crimes. Arlington Police Chief Will Johnson, vice president of the association and chair of its Human and Civil Rights Committee, recently gave a speech before the U.S. Senate outlining the challenges facing cops in fighting hate crimes and requesting more funding to combat the problem.
"It's incredible," Drazin said. "It's leaps and bounds from where we were before."
Last month marked the 10-year anniversary of the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded the definition of hate crimes to include gender identity, disability and sexual orientation. It also required the FBI to track them and allocated additional funds for hate crime prosecutions.
The ADL has long advocated for better reporting, and runs training programs for law enforcement personnel and lawyers to help them identify and prosecute hate crimes. Drazin also credits victims for having the courage to come forward, something she said is easier now than it has been in the past.
"Victims aren't letting it go quietly," she said.
Dawna Hubert, president of the North Texas chapter of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance, agreed.
"A lot of people in the past — and still today — don't report these crimes, because maybe they're afraid to be outed publicly or they feel like it will only make the situation worse," she said. "But I think that we're becoming more empowered as a community to say, 'No, this isn't OK.'"
But this trend wasn't evident everywhere in DFW. The Plano Police Department reported zero hate crimes in 2018, the largest city in the nation to do so, according to an analysis by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
"I would assume that it's caused by people not reporting," Drazin said. "If they're happening in Dallas, once you cross the Collin County line it doesn't stop."
Hubert said her organization was active in Plano and has a positive relationship with the police department there. She hadn't heard of any incidents, but noted that many people are still uncomfortable coming forward.
"If something's not reported, the police can't take care of it," she said.
She also emphasized that, despite the recent violence, Dallas is an accepting city that welcomes the LGBTQ community.
"But that being said, we still have to be vigilant and cautious," she said.
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