Over 15,000 Law Enforcement Agencies Don’t Report Hate Crimes. A New Bill Could Change That.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - August 2017: Memorial flowers and notes are left at the spot where Heather Heyer was killed and others were injured when a car plowed into a crowd of protesters during a rally. (Image via Shutterstock)

By Sarah Amy Harvard

November 24, 2020

The legislation would require police track hate crimes and report them to the federal government.

From 2018 to 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) documented an astonishing 7,314 cases of hate crimes—which includes assaults, vandalism, and other criminal acts—and also discovered that hate-motivated killings more than doubled in the United States.

Although this is the highest number of cases since the agency began collecting and documenting hate crimes in the 1990s, the actual number of cases is predicted to be much higher due to underreporting—and thus, doesn’t offer an accurate picture of how prevalent hate and bias in the country.

A new bipartisan bill, however, could change that. The Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act aims to expand tools for data collection, increase funding for hate crime prevention, and assist law enforcement to revise policies on all hate crime matters. Most importantly, it would actually require law enforcement agencies to track and report cases to the FBI.

Currently, law enforcement agencies are not required to report hate crimes to the federal government. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act, passed by Congress in 1990, mandates the Attorney General to collect data on criminal activity committed due to a victim’s “race, gender and gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” However, while the Department of Justice (DOJ)—which oversees the FBI—is required to collect hate crime data, law enforcement agencies are not required to report them.

The DOJ estimates that more than half of all hate crime incidents are not reported to the FBI. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) also found that only 2,172 out of 18,000 law enforcement agencies reported any hate crimes in 2019. 

“There is little to no incentive for many [law enforcement] agencies to take reporting seriously,” Scott Simpson, the public advocacy director of Muslim Advocates, told COURIER. “It’s neither required nor is it quality controlled in a meaningful way. Whether or not agencies take it seriously is a reflection of how they approach hate-motivated violence, which is notoriously uneven.”

And while some police departments prioritize eliminating hate, others, Simpson said, just ignore it. The SPLC also found that 80 cities with populations of over 100,000 people reported no hate crimes at all, a fact that is highly unlikely to be true, according to Simpson.

“We don’t believe there are no hate crimes happening in those cities,” he said. “We believe that the data that is reported is largely misreported.”

Several high-profile hate crimes were not reported to the federal government by the local authorities, and as a result, are not included in the FBI’s hate crime database. Some of these cases include Minnesota’s Bloomington Mosque Bombing, the shooting of two Iranian men in Olathe, Kansas, and an armed man who drove his truck through a convenience store in Louisiana because he believed the owners were Muslim. 

In addition to requiring the reporting of hate crimes, the bill from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) would require law enforcement agencies to revise or establish new policies on the identification, investigation, and reporting of hate crimes. The legislation is named after a Lebanese man who was murdered by his white neighbor and an anti-racist protestor killed by a white nationalist at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, it would guide law enforcement agencies 

The bill would also establish grants for states to implement and operate hate crime hotlines, record information on hate crimes, and direct victims and witnesses to law enforcement, local services, and other resources.


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