Hate Crimes Are Even Worse Than the FBI Will Admit

According to a shocking new report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hate crimes increased by 17 percent between 2016 and 2017. This new finding lends very real statistical weight to something many Americans felt was anecdotally true: This country is getting crueler.

But if you think that’s appalling, the really startling news may be this: The report severely underreports hate crimes, including several high-profile events generally recognized as hate crimes. Clearly, FBImethods for collecting and processing crime statistics are sorely lacking.

Writing for theWashington Post,Arjun Singh Sethi notes that the real shortcoming here lies withlocal law enforcement agencies, which do not collect data in a uniform way.

This isn’t just a problem with crimes committed against people because of their race, national origin, religion or sexual orientation — like killing someone because she’s Muslim, or beating a gay man while shouting homophobic epithets. Local law enforcement agencies also keep notoriously poor data on officer-involved shootings, making it hard to study police killings effectively, though the FBI has pledged to improve its use of force data.

Sethi found that the report didn’t include several notable incidents, including the killing of Heather Heyer and the stabbingson Portlandpublic transit committed by someone who was screaming racist comments. Both incidents resulted in hate crimes charges, and they were widely perceived by the public as hate crimes.

The disparity has to do with how datais collected and reported. Local law enforcement agencies may not be familiar with the definitions of hate crimes, and they may not report them properly or follow up on them. Some claim that issues like “clerical error” interfered with properly reporting this information.Others are still using outdated software systems that don’t interface well with the FBI.

As a result, hate crimes have been radically underreported. In Miami, for example, there were supposedly zero hate crimes in 2017, which seems rather unlikely.

That’s a problem when it comes to reports like this one. The FBI and law enforcement have been challenged on this issue before, so it’s hard to tell at first glance whether the rise in hate crimes from 2016 to 2017 is an actual increase, or just a reflection of more accurate data coding and collection. And this makes it challenging to identify patterns of hate — though organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League are certainly trying, and evidence strongly suggests hate crimes are on the rise year over year.

The reality is that any number of hate crimes is too many, and we’ve seen several very recent illustrations of why tolerance for hate is so dangerous. In Pittsburgh, 11 people died when an anti-Semitic killer stormed their synagogue during worship, reflecting the stark uptick in anti-Semitic hate crimes observed in 2017, for example.

Better data would help us understand which types of crimes are most likely to occur and where, and it would allow us to track the relative failure or success of interventions like anti-bias training.

But whether we have better data or not, it’s clear we need to take action on the issue of hate in our communities. That includes holding public officials accountable for hateful rhetoric, advocating in schools to address expressions of hate like Nazi salutes in school photosand speaking out in our own lives when we encounter hate, whether we’re challenging a racist remark at the grocery store or confronting neighbors with homophobic signs in their yards.

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

47 comments

Jan K
Jan K11 days ago

tyfs

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Daniel N
Daniel N14 days ago

Thank you for posting

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Paula A
Paula A16 days ago

thanks

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rachel r
Past Member 16 days ago

Thank you!

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Chad Anderson
Chad A18 days ago

Thank you.

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Ruth G
Ruth G20 days ago

MAINLY DOWN TO THE IGNORANT TRUMP! & HIS SUPPORTERS WHO HAVE PUT HIM THIS POSITION OF POWER EVEN FOR A SECOND TIME!!!! UNBELIEVABLE!

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silja salonen
silja salonen21 days ago

thank that feckless wanker who sits in the WH.

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Gino C
Gino C22 days ago

Thank you

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Janis K
Janis K22 days ago

Thanks for sharing

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Izorie Irvin
Izorie I22 days ago

Thanks 4 sharing...

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