updated 11/22/2004 11:53:42 AM ET 2004-11-22T16:53:42

More than 7,400 hate crime incidents occurred nationwide last year, more than half of them motivated by racial prejudice, most often against black people, the FBI reported Monday.

Hate crimes motivated by anti-black racial bias totaled 2,548 in 2003, more than double such crimes against all other racial groups combined. There were 3,150 black victims in these cases, including four who were murdered, according to the annual FBI report.

The overall total of 7,489 hate crime incidents reported in 2003 was slightly above the number reported in 2002. Nearly two-thirds of the crimes involved in such cases are intimidation, vandalism or property destruction.

But there are also hundreds of violent crimes, including 14 murders. There were more than 2,700 assaults; 444 bias-related robberies, burglaries and thefts; and 34 arson incidents.

The report shows that crimes categorized as anti-Islamic remained at the about same level in 2003 — 149 crimes — as the year before. There had been a spike in such crimes immediately after the 2001 terror attacks, helping drive the overall hate crime number much higher that year.

By far the most hate crimes based on religion were directed at Jews, with 927 incidents in 2003, about the same as in 2002.

The report also found more than 1,200 hate crimes based on sexual orientation, including 783 against male homosexuals. That included six murders.

The FBI hate crimes report is drawn from information submitted by more than 11,900 law enforcement agencies around the country. Only about 16 percent of those agencies reported any hate crimes in their jurisdictions during 2003.

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