MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — South Carolina saw a sharp increase in the number of hate crime incidents reported to the FBI in 2020, according to new data.
There were 110 incidents reported to the FBI in 2020 from South Carolina police agencies. In 2019, there were 57.
“It’s really hard from to say where that increase came from,” Kevin Wheeler, public affairs specialist for the FBI’s Columbia office, said. “But I can tell you that anytime we’re talking about increases in crime or hate crimes for that matter, it is a top priority for us.”
Nationwide, there were the most hate crime incidents reported since 2008. The FBI reports 7,759 incidents in 2020.
The FBI’s office in Columbia said it’s important to track these trends because it helps the agency to better understand the scope of the problem, which will allow it to put resources toward prevention.
South Carolina’s House of Representatives passed a hate crime bill earlier this year, which is now sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
One of the co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Roger Kirby, D-Florence , hopes it’ll go through when lawmakers get back into session.
“Basically what this law does, is it gives law enforcement more tools in their toolbox to prosecute hate crimes, and basically this is for violent crimes,” Kirby said.
The business community has voiced support for the bill. Some religious groups have criticized it, worried it would be used against them.
“We just think having these potential added penalties available will hopefully curb some of these hate crimes we’re seeing on South Carolinians even today,” Kirby said. “We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get this legislation, that a lot of people have worked very diligently on, across the finish line next year.”