Nationally, the number of reported hate crimes remained fairly stagnant in 2018 compared to the year before, but Missouri saw a 39% reduction.
According to the FBI, there were more than 16,000 law enforcement agencies participating in the Hate Crime Statistics Program in 2018, but only about 12% reported incidents. The other 87% reported that no hate crimes occurred in their jurisdictions. Agencies participate on a voluntary basis and provide one to 12 months of data.
In Missouri, there are roughly 600 participating agencies. Twenty-two submitted reports of a hate crime in 2018, compared to 32 in 2017.
But at least one expert is skeptical about the statistics.
Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said because this reporting is voluntary, this data does not give an accurate representation of hate crimes throughout the state.
“They are simply a snapshot of a moment in time. And the challenge with the hate crime stuff, is first of all, we’re a year behind,” said Aroesty whose agency includes Missouri, southern Illinois and eastern Kansas.
Aroesty said 2019 will likely show an increase in discrimination against the LGBTQ and Jewish communities. She said there were also several high-profile crimes against individuals of the Muslim faith. One of the toughest challenges with collecting this data, is that somevictims never file a complaint out of fear.
“Fear of the federal government, particularly if they’re not documented,” said Aroesty. “Fear of local law enforcement… no sense of trust that the community will respond to what they need to. And fear of being seen as a victim.”
A hate crime is defined by the FBI as “a criminal offense against a person or property, motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
The 2018 data shows there were 8,819 victims of hate crimes in the U.S. Sixty-three percent of crimes were against people, 33% were property crimes and the remaining were for a variety of offenses.
A closer look at the national data shows that more than half of the victims of hate crimes were targeted because of their race, ethnicity or ancestry. Of those 5,155 victims, 47% of them were targeted by offenders’ anti-black or African American bias.
Aroesty said Missouri’s current hate crime statute includes protections against gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. In the upcoming legislative session, the Anti-Defamation League hopes to close some gaps in cyber hate crimes.
She said Missouri and the entire country can eliminate hate crimes, but only with the proper allies.
“It’s about leadership. It’s about a top-down, as well as a neighborhood approach to learning that we are all positive participants in community… wherever we come from, whatever language we speak, whoever we love and however we identify,” said Aroesty. “And that leadership sends a message.”
Follow Jaclyn on Twitter: @DriscollNPR
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org