FBI: Georgia sees decrease in hate crimes; most reported in Cobb County

The number of reported hate crimes in Georgia decreased in 2016 from the previous year, according to newly released FBI data.

According to the agency's annual Hate Crime Statistics released Monday, 39 hate crimes were reported in the state in  2016, down five from 2015.

Of those crimes last year, 25 were motivated by race, two by religion, and 12 by sexual orientation. No reported crimes were motivated by a disability, gender or gender identity.

In 2015, 32 crimes were motivated by race, five by religion, and seven by sexual orientation.

RELATED: Why Cobb County reported the most hate crimes in 2015

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Six police departments reported a hate crime in 2016, including  Atlanta, Conyers, the University of Georgia, along with Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett County police.

Of the departments that recorded a hate crime, the majority— 25 incidents, or 64 percent — occurred in Cobb County. The total was slightly higher in 2015, with the county recording 68 percent of reported hate crimes in the state.

At the time, Cobb police said the higher number could be attributed to a computer system that lets officers designate an incident as a hate crime. Not all departments use the same system, Cobb said.

Georgia is one of a few states with no hate crime law on the books. The state Supreme Court struck down a hate crime law in 2004 because it was too vague. And, in the most recent legislative session, lawmakers failed to get a bill passed that would have refined the definition of "domestic terrorism."

Sgt. Dana Pierce, spokesman for the Cobb County Police Department, said the department labels two or three incidents as hate crimes per month, if that, but could not answer why other agencies don’t do the same.

“I can only say what our people do is thorough,” he said Monday. “That thoroughness includes reading all reports and doing our due diligence under (Uniform Crime Reporting) code, if applicable.”

Nationally, hate crimes rose for the second straight year, according to the FBI numbers. There were more than 6,100 hate crimes last year, compared to 5,850 in 2015.

The FBI began recording hate crime data in 1990. The agency collects its data from participating law enforcement officials through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program.