The FBI today released its annual report on the number of hate crimes in the U.S.
First the good news: the FBI says nationwide, the number of reported hate crimes dropped by about 400 to 6,222 last year compared to 2010.
The FBI says of Alabama's 83 hate crimes last year, 69 were related to race or ethnicity, seven because of sexual orientation, five because of religion, and two because of disability.
But the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes in Alabama and nationwide, says those numbers don't tell the real story.
"The unfortunate reality is these numbers only give us some kind of indication of what's going on," the SPLC's Mark Potok says. "The state-by-state comparisons are fairly useless. What they really tell you is how good a job each state does in reporting hate crimes as opposed to what's really on the ground."
Potok says the actual number for Alabama is probably more like 2,000, and nationally it's more like 200,000.
In fact, the FBI report says the law enforcement agencies who gave them numbers only cover about half the state's population, leaving a big gap in knowledge.
So do the state's hate crime laws need updating? Rep. Paul DeMarco says no.
"The prosecutors we've talked to said they have the tools in the box when it comes to assault and battery, murder and all those," Rep. DeMarco said. "So when you talk to prosecutors, they say for crimes, they've got the tools in the box and its up to prosecutors to decide what to prosecute that person with."
There are a couple of national trends buried in this report: a significant drop in hate crimes against Latinos, and for the second year in a row, a sharp increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
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