Stats show sharp increase in hate crimes in Florida

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An act of vandalism at a fraternity house at the University of Florida is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Hate crimes are on the increase in Florida. A new report from Florida's attorney general finds a 22 percent increase in hate crime in the state.

State law defines hate crimes as acts initiated or perpetrated because of a bias against the victim. An offense designated a hate crime conviction carries enhanced penalties.

"The local law enforcement agencies are required to submit hate crimes each year. A report is compiled, local law enforcement submits to FDLE," said spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.

The majority of the 170 reported crimes in the most recent report were against racial minorities, with LGBT people being the No. 2 target. The numbers are the highest since 2008.

Fewer hate crimes were committed because of religion or national origin.

Victim advocates say the numbers are likely to get worse before they get better.

NAACP's Dale Landry says his group is seeing an alarming number of incidents from groups promoting hatred.

"There's been a lot of this behavior, the question is, is it getting ready to erupt or do we go in and stop it," Landry said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi says hate crimes are senseless acts based on hatred, but groups are pointing at her and other state leaders for the rise in hate crimes.

"Things are starting to head back to where they were in the past because of a lack of leadership and a lack of a call of unity," Landry said.

Orange, Brevard and Alachua counties reported the largest number of hate crimes. In Alachua County, home to the University of Florida, the Ku Klux Klan has been distributing recruiting flyers.

Gov. Rick Scott wasn't available Thursday for interview about the hate crime increase, but his press office sent a statement about overall crime saying: "Gov. Scott is proud that Florida is at a 42-year low in crime and that we are on a path to a 43-year crime low."

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