Thanks to giant gaps in police data, the FBI’s new report showing a big jump in hate crimes is probably a better gauge of increased but still vastly undercounted crime reports than of an actual increase in the crimes.
Roughly a thousand more police agencies submitted data to the FBI for its annual hate-crimes report than those that did the previous year, The New York Times reports. Even so, hate crimes remain vastly underreported. Only 12.6 percent of the agencies in the FBI report indicated that hate crimes had occurred in their jurisdictions in 2017. Agencies as large as the Miami and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments reported zero, the Times reports. And so the report’s widely publicized conclusions — showing a 17 percent over 2016, with more than 7,100 incidents — are probably a better gauge of increased but incomplete reporting than of an actual increase in the crimes. “I wouldn’t feel too confident in those numbers,” said Sim J. Singh, the senior advocacy manager for the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization.
Data shows that hate crime victims often do not trust that reporting will help them. The F.B.I. said it planned to train law enforcement officers next year on how to do a better job of identifying and reporting bias-motivated incidents. The Justice Department has also launched a new website on hate crimes. Will Johnson, the chief of police in Arlington, Tex., and a vice president of International Association of Chiefs of Police, said that some departments lack the proper training for identifying and reporting hate crimes. “More importantly than anything else is the effective conversation and heightened awareness in communities that this is important and that government institutions are prepared to respond effectively to crimes that victimize broadly across our communities,” Chief Johnson said.