Tracking Hate Crimes
In my last post, I noted that in the FBI’s compilation of hate crime statistics released a couple months ago, Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi reported only 24 hate crime incidents over the course of the year to the 1,637 reported in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Michigan.
I found that shocking and questioned how it was tolerated.
Today, I happened upon a chart made by the Southern Poverty Law Center showing that there are 29 percent more hate groups operating in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi than in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey, which makes me even more convinced that the legal community needs to increase the pressure on these three southern states to seriously track and report hate crimes to the FBI.
One commenter on the last post suggested that the failure of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi to report such crimes has to do with an understanding by law enforcement that labeling certain crimes “hate crimes” is likely to prevent prosecutors from gaining convictions because the label threatens to undermine the “biracial consensus they need on juries.” I think that’s an interesting possibility, but even if it is true I don’t think that it ought to be an excuse. In my opinion, identifying certain crimes as “hate crimes” is not simply, as the commenter suggested, a “carpetbagger” worldview. Congress has determined that hate crimes exist and need to be tracked. And, in fact, both Mississippi and Alabama appear to have statutes that criminalize certain bias-motivated violence and intimidation.
It’s time for all states to get serious about eradicating hate-fueled criminal action and figuring out when, where, and how it occurs is a critical first step.