Hate crimes are a daily occurrence in the United States. But such crimes are for many reasons extremely difficult to verify, and grossly under-reported.
According to the FBI, hate crimes are those motivated by prejudice and committed against victims based on their race, color, religion, or national origin, as well as based on biases of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or gender.
The primary limitation in collecting accurate data on hate crimes is that police jurisdictions across the country are not required to report hate crimes. Further, because the content of the verbal exchanges between the perpetrator and the victim is almost always what qualifies a given altercation as a hate crime, the exact words that were exchanged need to be confirmed — obviously an extremely difficult endeavour.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., John Roman, criminologist and senior fellow at University of Chicago research institution NORC, noted that police departments often blame insufficient resources for not reporting hate crimes. He added, “[Hate crime reporting] also creates a level of accountability and not every agency is looking for that level of scrutiny.”
As a result of these limitations in reporting, the number of hate crimes on record is almost certainly a gross underestimation. Citing a national survey, Roman said that “about 10% of the time where there is some sort of violent incident the victim perceives it as having been a hate crime.” That would amount to well over 100,000 hate crimes annually, versus the just over 6,000 hate crimes reported nationwide in 2016.
To highlight where hate crime reporting practices are falling especially short, and to offer possible comparisons in hate crime levels between states, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the latest FBI data. We calculated the share of each state’s population covered by law enforcement agencies participating in hate crime reporting, which ranges from no hate crime reporting at all in one state (Hawaii) and less than 20% in Mississippi to near total coverage in 16 states.