What’s a Hate Crime? Data ‘Incredibly Out of Whack’

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Stanley Vernon Majors was a neighbor from hell in Tulsa, harassing the Arab family who lived next to him, ramming his car into a family member and killing another last Friday, McClatchy Newspapers reports. Among Arab and Muslim Americans, the case immediately was viewed as a hate crime. Experts say it may not be prosecuted that way. Hate crime laws can be prohibitively difficult to use, narrow as to what offenses are covered, and dependent on police who often have no obligation to report, or lack training in how to respond to, crimes involving bias.

Hate-crime monitors say incidents involving racial, ethnic, and gender bias are under-reported across all categories. Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks violent extremism, said one of the most striking discrepancies in official tallies can be found within the Justice Department. The FBI’s annual tally of reported hate-related offenses hovers around 6,000. Yet the National Crime Victimization Survey of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates some 260,000 people suffer hate crimes each year. “The numbers are incredibly out of whack,” Beirich said. “The FBI’s numbers tell you nothing.”

 

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