Reports of hate crimes in South Carolina increased during 2008, according to the FBI's annual report on hate crimes in the United States.
In 2008, 153 hate crime incidents were reported in South Carolina, up from 127 reported during the previous year, the FBI said.
Nationally, 7,783 incidents were reported, up from 7,624 in 2007, according to the FBI.
The FBI noted hate crime trends are hard to determine because the number of agencies participating changes each year and some police jurisdictions place a higher priority on reporting the crimes than others.
A hate crime is motivated by a bias against someone's race, religious views, sexual orientation, gender or disability. They can be committed against a person or against someone's property.
In 2008, South Carolina law enforcement reported a rise in hate crimes motivated by race, religion and sexual orientation. According to the FBI, The number of S.C. crimes reported in 2008 in each category were:
- Race: 89
- Religion: 27
- Sexual orientation: 22
The number of crimes in the state motivated by ethnicity or disabilities dropped in 2008, the FBI report said.
South Carolina is one of five states that does not have a law that allows suspects to be charged with hate crimes in addition to the actual act involved, such as assault or vandalism. However, there is a federal hate crime law that can be applied in South Carolina. Police departments, sheriff's offices and other agencies voluntarily report hate crimes to the FBI.
During the past two years, 480 S.C. law enforcement agencies participated in hate crimes reporting, according to the FBI. Of those, 65 submitted incident reports in 2008.
Critics of South Carolina's handling of hate crimes said local police are doing a better job of recognizing them.
"There's been a lot of pressure on law enforcement here in South Carolina to acknowledge hate crimes," said Elke Kennedy of Greenville, founder of Sean's Last Wish.
Kennedy's son, Sean Kennedy, was killed in 2007 after another man shouted anti-gay slurs at him and punched him in the face. She founded Sean's Last Wish to push for hate crime legislation in the state.
South Carolina needs legislation that sets uniform, mandatory standards on how and when police report hate crimes, Kennedy said.
"Only then will we actually know if they're accurate or not," she said.