WASHINGTON — The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s crime statistics for 2011 showed 68 anti-Catholic hate crimes took place in the U.S. last year.

In 2011, there were 68 anti-Catholic criminal offenses and 21 known offenders, with 84 victims. Offenses included three simple assaults, three acts of intimidation, four burglaries, 11 acts of larceny-theft, one arson attack and 46 acts of destruction, damage or vandalism.

The new figures, released Dec. 10, come from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program, which collects incidents from participating law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

In 2010, there were 61 anti-Catholic offenses, including five simple assaults, seven acts of intimidation, six burglaries, 10 acts of larceny-theft, one vehicle theft and 31 acts of destruction, damage or vandalism.

However, the FBI cautions against comparing year-to-year statistical data because of the “infrequent and subjective nature of hate crimes,” William Estok, a media representative with the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, W.Va., told EWTN News Dec. 14.

He said that community awareness and education would improve hate-crime reporting.

Estok said that most reported hate crimes are investigated at the state and local levels. The federal government is able to investigate and prosecute “crimes of bias” as civil-rights violations that are not under state jurisdiction.

“All hate-crime offenses carry harsher penalties if the offenders of these crimes are found guilty,” he said.

Hate crimes are traditional offenses “motivated by the offender’s bias,” Estok explained. Federal guidelines say these biases should be reported only if the investigation reveals “sufficient objective facts” that the offender was motivated in whole or in part by bias.

Penalties for hate crimes that do not include attempted or actual murder and attempted or actual kidnapping include a maximum 10-year prison term.

The overall hate-crime statistics found 6,216 bias incidents reported by 1,944 of 14,575 participating agencies. Of these incidents, 46.9% were motivated by racial bias, 20.8% by sexual orientation bias, 19.8% by religious bias and 11.6% by ethnicity or national origin bias.

In addition to hate crimes committed against Catholics, the 2011 statistics record 820 reported anti-Jewish offenses, 175 anti-Islamic offenses, 139 offenses against other religions, 63 offenses against multiple religions, 49 anti-Protestant offenses and four offenses against atheists and agnostics.

About 4.4% of bias-motivated crimes took place in churches, synagogues or temples.