ATLANTA — Georgia passed a hate crimes law in 2020 but the state's data is spotty and not current.
Federal data shows what appeared to be a sharp rise in hate crimes a couple of years ago.
A year ago, a gunman shot and killed eight people in metro Atlanta – six of them of Asian descent. The mass killing is being prosecuted as a hate crime under a new state law – though it hasn’t shown up yet in federal data compiling hate crimes in Georgia.
"Georgia is woefully behind in collecting data when it comes to criminal offenses, prosecutions and everything else," Christopher Bruce of the ACLU-Georgia said.
Yet, the state’s hate crimes data does reveal troubling trends.
The U.S. Justice Department said hate crimes in Georgia soared during the last three years of data it has compiled, through 2020.
In 2018, there were 35 classified hate crimes. In 2020, that number jumped to 196. The large majority of them were race or ethnicity-based – 28 four years ago and 132 in 2020.
That was before the Glynn County killing Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger chased down and killed by three white men convicted of the crime.
Bruce said the rise in hate crimes in Georgia reflects a troubling surge among racist extremists.
"Federal hate crimes have gone up across the nation not just in Georgia, which really reflects just this period of time in our nation," Bruce said. "We know that minorities are being impacted to a larger degree."
The federal data also showed sharp rises in hate crimes in Georgia related to religion and sexual orientation. But, they’re still a relatively small portion dominated by race-related hate crimes.