CLEVELAND — Reported hate crimes are on the rise in Cleveland, according to a report released by the FBI.
The report outlined the number of reported hate crime incidents motivated by race, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity.
The findings outline a sharp increase in the number of hate crimes reported in Cleveland from 2015 through 2018, with 8 total hate crimes identified in 2015 and 2016, 12 recorded in 2017, and a total of 38 reported in 2018.
Cleveland State University College of Urban Studies Professor Ronnie Dunn told News 5 it's an alarming trend that is happening nationwide.
“Race and ethnicity based hate crimes are the majority, they account for 27% of those hate incidents,” Dunn said. “Fear that is being stoked by national leaders and divisiveness. The political culture has to change, and people of good will and good conscious have to come together and stand. And as a county we have to make it very clear that we won’t tolerate this type of violence.”
According to Dunn, another part of the increase is because more people are coming forward to report hate crimes, and law enforcement is doing a better job in recognizing and classifying hate crime violence.
However, Case Western reserve University School of Law Professor Michael Benza believes our judicial system needs to do a better job in recording, investigating and prosecuting hate crimes.
“That’s critically important, because unless we know the nature of the problem and the scope of the problem, we cannot figure out ways to address the problem,” Benza said. "From the law enforcement perspective, we have to to recognize these crimes as a very unique type of crime, it isn’t simply an assault. We do want the justice system to treat them differently, we want law enforcement to take them more seriously when they’re looking at them and investigating.”
Meanwhile Dunn said recent statistics show Cleveland has the 8th highest level of reported hate crimes in the country and believes easy access to weapons and social media are playing a role in empowering hate crime attackers.
“They get into these chat-rooms and these communities on-line and they’re radicalized, and these extreme views are perpetuated,” Dunn said. "Access to guns is clearly a problem in these violent acts of hate, that’s part of it. But then we just have to try to facilitate more dialog."