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Colorado sees sharp jump in hate crimes, FBI reports

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Reported hate crimes in Colorado rose 74% in 2019 compared to 2018, according to data released Monday by the FBI.

The federal agency reported 210 hate crimes in Colorado in 2019, compared to 121 in 2018, a significant year-over-year increase that continues a longer upward trend in reported hate crimes in the state.

Of the Colorado hate crimes reported in 2019, the majority were motivated by race and sexual orientation, according to the FBI’s data, which recorded 117 race-based hate crimes and 47 crimes based on sexual orientation.

Thirty-six crimes motivated by religion were reported, as well as seven based on disabilities and five on gender-identity, according to the FBI.

In November 2019, Pueblo resident Richard Holzer, a self-identified white supremacist, was charged with a federal hate crime after he plotted with undercover FBI agents to blow up the Temple Emmanuel synagogue in Pueblo. He was arrested before he could carry out his plans, and pleaded guilty in October. Holzer will be sentenced in January.

The spike in Colorado likely reflects both better reporting of hate crimes by local law enforcement and a true increase in the frequency of such crimes, said Jeremy Shaver, senior associate regional director for The Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region.

He noted the increase in Colorado began around 2015, and said “heightened rhetoric” around hot-button issues like immigration has created an atmosphere in which some feel emboldened to target others based on their identities.

“That can translate not only into hate speech but also into activity,” he said.

Nationally, hate crimes rose to the highest level in more than a decade, and federal officials also recorded the highest number of hate-motivated killings since the FBI began collecting that data in the early 1990s.

Across the U.S., there were 51 hate crime murders in 2019, which includes 22 people who were killed in a shooting that targeted Mexicans at a Walmart in the border city of El Paso, Texas, according to the FBI. The suspect in that August 2019 shooting, which left two dozen other people injured, was charged with both state and federal crimes in what authorities said was an attempt to scare Hispanics into leaving the United States.

There were 7,314 hate crimes reported nationally last year, up from 7,120 in 2018. The FBI’s annual report defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on a person’s race, religion or sexual orientation, among other categories.

Hate crimes are consistently underreported, Shaver said, and it’s likely more crimes occurred than were recorded in the FBI’s report.

“We think there are likely many more cases than this report indicates, but it’s our best measure of what is happening in Colorado,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed. 

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