Hate crimes across the country and much of Minnesota are climbing and all of us — no matter where we live, our skin color, ethnicity, religion or gender identity — need to be aware and work to keep the statistics from escalating.

The FBI’s recently released annual hate crime report reflected a 6% increase in hate crimes in 2020 compared to the previous year. That adds up to nearly 7,800 criminal incidents known to have been motivated at least in part by bias and is the highest number reported since 2018.

Fortunately, south-central Minnesota saw a dip in reported hate crimes. Last year 11 bias crimes were reported in the area compared to 17 in 2019. (The region includes the counties of Blue Earth, Nicollet, Le Sueur, Waseca, Brown, Sibley, Watonwan and Faribault.)

However, that doesn’t mean area residents should pretend that hate crimes don’t happen in their backyard. Any such crime is one too many. As Mankato Public Safety Deputy Director Matt DuRose said: “Our community can do much better than the seven that were reported. I would like to see our number as zero, and I think we could get there in the future.”

And sometimes low numbers may be too good to be true. The FBI reports have long drawn concern that they significantly underreport hate crimes. Law enforcement agencies are not required to participate and nearly 3,500 departments didn’t last year. The fact more than 60 jurisdictions with populations over 100,000 affirmatively reported zero hate crimes is simply not credible, says the Anti-Defamation League.

Minnesota’s hate crime reporting system varies from the FBI protocol a bit so that it had 223 incidents in 2020, which is 29 more than in the federal report. So varying reporting requirements, uneven participation and subjective interpretation by those taking reports can make the reports more unreliable than ideal. But they do, at least, offer a glimpse of what is going on in parts of the country — and in some cases indicate what isn’t being acknowledged when no reports are filed year after year.

The country has a long way to go when it comes to eliminating hate crimes. An attack on a Hmong Cultural Center in St. Paul last week was visible proof of that. The words “Life, Liberty, Victory,” a phrase associated with a white nationalist hate group, was written on the paint that the vandals applied to cover up Black artwork. And on Friday a threat of violence closed a St. Louis Park synagogue.

Communities need to keep reporting such crimes and set high expectations that law enforcement will take them seriously and report the incidents at both the state and federal levels.

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