The Matthew Shepard Foundation is polling victims of hate crimes to learn why they don’t report the incidents to police. A small sample of replies so far suggests victims are confused about the definition of hate crimes, skeptical of law enforcement help, and fearful of retaliation.
ProPublica examines one of the most striking statistics in a recent federal Bureau of Justice Statistics report on hate crimes: 54 percent of the roughly 250,000 people who said they were victimized in the U.S. in recent years chose not to file a formal complaint with the authorities. The Matthew Shepard Foundation, which advocated for national hate crime legislation, is trying to better understand the phenomenon by collecting information from Denver residents who have notified the organization about being victimized. They are being asked to explain why they did or did not report the incident to the police. The effort began in February and so far has produced a modest 15 responses.
The foundation said the anonymous responses suggest a mix of forces at work when victims are deciding what to do: confusion about the definition of hate crimes; skepticism of the commitment by law enforcement to aggressively investigate; fear of retaliation. “They echo what other organizations have heard through listening sessions, meetings, and the national victims of crime survey responses,” said Jason Marsden, the foundation’s executive director.