SAN ANTONIO – The number of hate crimes in Texas increased by nearly 240% from 2017 to 2018, according to recently released data from the FBI.
Hate crimes — a criminal offense against a person or property that is motivated by race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and disability — totaled to 457 in 2018 in Texas, according to the FBI’s 2018 hate crime statistics. That number is up from 192 reported in 2017.
In Texas, the type of hate crime that increased the most was racially motivated, while incidents concerning religion, sexual orientation and disability also rose. Racist cases alone spiked from 117 in 2017 to 314 in 2018.
There were six hate crimes reported in San Antonio in 2018, compared to four in 2017, the FBI reported. It is unclear if arrests were made in each case.
Three of those were based on race/ethnicity/ancestry, including one incident in which a black man on the Northeast Side discovered a noose tied to his mailbox, according to police records obtained by KSAT.
Two of the reported crimes were based on religion and one was based on sexual orientation, the records show.
Hate crimes became punishable in 1968, making it a crime to threaten or use force against “any person because of race, color, religion, or national origin," according to the Department of Justice. In 1996, destroying religious property based on bias became criminal.
Records obtained by KSAT from the San Antonio Police Department provide more details on the motivation behind these incidents.
- The year began with an incident concerning graphic text messages sent to members of the Grace Tabernacle Church on the South Side. The messages included a graphic threat, a racial slur and an offensive term used to describe a gay man. During a Bible study on Jan. 1, church members received text messages saying “You are all f------ fa----,” “all of you are f------ sp---" and “I will murder all of your f------ children," according to the SAPD report. Because several church members received the messages, the victims believed the person who sent them was also a member, the report says.
- On April 13, a man walking his German Shepherd was harassed and lunged at by a stranger, according to the SAPD report. The suspect called the man “a terrorist, a f------ pig, a f------ Arab,” the report states. The man then reported to police which apartment the suspect walked into. When a police officer arrived, the suspect was first “argumentative and uncooperative” but later “denied he said any vulgarities," the report states.
- A woman received a text message on June 5 that stated “commit suicide b----” and “Muslims are not wanted in our country,” according to SAPD. The woman was concerned because she works with refugees and victims of human trafficking, the report states.
- On Aug. 19, a man reported to police that a person wrote “f--” on the front windshield, side passenger windows and on the back of the vehicle, according to SAPD. A phallic-shaped figure was also drawn on the vehicle. The man, who is gay, told police he “has never received such hate before” and is “loved in his community.”
- A man on the Northeast Side found a yellow rope tied in a noose on his mailbox when he returned home from work on Nov. 1, according to SAPD. “It raised concern since he is the only black family that lives on the block," according to the police report. He told police he doesn’t believe any neighbors were involved since he has a “good relationship” with them. The incident occurred near O’Connor and Nacogdoches roads.
- Pentagrams, other satanic symbols and profanity were found tagged on the Fellowship Bible Church on Christmas Eve. Police were not able to obtain video surveillance, according to SAPD, and it is unclear how many taggers were involved.
A map built by KSAT and Esri, a location intelligence company, shows which Texas cities reported crimes inspired by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender and gender identity in its 2018 report.
Some of the biggest Texas cities — Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin — each had double-digit figures in the number of hate crimes this year.
Austin reported 19 total hate crimes, Dallas reported 31, Fort Worth reported 26 and Houston reported 25, according to the FBI.
Some smaller Texas cities that reported high numbers, though, did encounter reporting issues. Freeport and Plainview, with populations of 12,185 and 20,569, respectively, reported false numbers due to a new system, their police chiefs told KSAT.
Freeport reported 14 total hate crimes, while Plainview reported 25.
Plainview Police Chief Ken Coughlin told KSAT that in the last six years serving as chief, he has never known of a hate crime been reported.
“It was our fault, and nobody caught it,” he said of the reporting error.
Ray Garivey, Freeport Police chief for eight years, echoed that statement.
New Braunfels is the only city in the San Antonio area included in the list; it reported four hate crimes.
Across the state, hate groups still have a large presence.
There are 1,020 active hate groups in the country, including 73 in Texas and at least four based in San Antonio, KSAT previously reported.
ACT for America - Anti-Muslim, Israel United in Christ - Black Separatist, League of the South - Neo-Confederate and Great Millstone - Black Nationalists are active hate groups in San Antonio, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.