The man who opened fire in a Dollar Tree supermarket in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday targeted Black people because of their race, local police said. Using a rifle with a swastika drawn on it, he killed three people, deliberately targeting Black patrons, according to local authorities. The events that unfolded in Jacksonville were tragic, but hardly unique. In recent years, other racist shootings left people dead in Allen and El Paso, Texas; and in Buffalo, New York. Hate crimes also expand far beyond those headlines. A leading group of experts has found the number of hate crimes reported to police in 42 major U.S. cities rose 10% last year from the year before, USA Today reports. And in just the country’s largest 10 cities, the number of reported hate crimes rose even more — 22% from 2021 to 2022, making last year the second consecutive year they hit a record high.
What constitutes a hate crime varies by locale; it includes murder, but also offenses such as assault and stalking. In general, a hate crime is determined by the way a perpetrator targets a specific kind of victim.
Last year, as has been the case every year since the count began, most hate-crime victims were Black, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, which collects and analyzes official state and municipal hate crime data sets. Brian Levin, a professor who has been helping collate hate crime data across the country since 1986, said while the number of crimes has dipped somewhat so far this year, he’s concerned about the presidential election season, which has historically brought with it elevated levels of hate crime. “We really believe that this is the eye of the storm,” Levin said. “We consistently see that election years are not only elevated, but we have hundreds and hundreds of more hate crimes during those times.”