PORTLAND, Maine — Hate crimes in Maine were high yet again in 2021, according to data from the FBI.
Newly-released data shows the majority of hate crimes on a national scale stem from intimidation. The group most targeted in Maine in 2021 was Black and African American people.
This data shows 75 total hate crime incidents in Maine. The only other year in the last 11 years that was higher was 2020, with 83 cases.
"At the local level we need to take these crimes seriously... encourage people to report them," Cumberland County District Attorney Jackie Sartoris said. "We take these crimes very seriously, and people should not be at risk."
Sartoris said people have become empowered in recent years to report hate crimes, and that could have contributed to a small part in the increase. Sartoris added the main reason for the increase is strictly due to an increase in hate.
"Hate crimes are a real harm. This is actually a newish area of laws in some ways that I think law enforcement is struggling with how to follow through on these investigations," Sartoris said.
The main group that was targeted in Maine in 2021 were Black and African American people with 37% of reported crimes. A total of 21% were for LGBTQ+ people.
The FBI on Tuesday also released new national data breaking down the kinds of bias that went into the hate crimes.
Around 64.5% of victims were targeted because of a racial or ethnic bias, and 15.9% were targeted because of one's sexual orientation.
When looking at the crime category, the most common hate crime included intimidation, with the second highest being assault.
For Maine's refugee community, encountering people who don't want them there is not unheard of.
In October, around two dozen neo-Nazis marched through Lewiston with signs targeting the Somali community.
Abdullahi Ali, executive director for the Gateway Community Service Maine in Portland, said many refugees don't expect to find hostility after escaping the situation that drove them from their home country.
"They want to work. They want their children to go to school. The people that are coming here want to live their lives and want to mind their own business," Ali said.
Ali, who came to Maine in 2009 as a refugee from Kenya, said the love they find once coming to America outweighs the number of hate crimes that threaten them.
"There's more love than hate, and that's what inspires us and encourages us to do more," Ali said.