Hundreds of cities and towns in Massachusetts, including some of the state's most diverse, report few or no hate crimes, statistics that civil rights advocates say are implausible and troubling, the Boston Globe reports. Massachusetts ranked ninth highest in the U.S. in the number of hate crimes reported last year in FBI statistics. But of the state's 351 cities and towns, 211 reported no hate crimes; 71 reported only 1 to 7 hate crimes per 100,000 residents; the remaining 69 Massachusetts communities did not submit reports.
Civil rights advocates said such figures suggest that police are not properly investigating hate crimes, or the advocates worry that some agencies may be underreporting bias crimes to protect the reputation of their communities. “We take no comfort in low numbers, because it just means that the police are not detecting the problem,'' said Donald Gorton III of the Anti-Violence Project of Massachusetts, which focuses on hate crimes against gays, lesbians, and transgender people. “Often, the ostrich in the sand describes the way they deal with hate.'' Most police departments are eager to tout crime statistics when the numbers are low, but a high number of hate crime reports shows that a department takes such complaints seriously and that a community has confidence in its police force, said Derrek Shulman of the Anti-Defamation League. Police officials whose departments reported low numbers defended their record, saying they treat hate crimes aggressively. They point to possible factors behind the statistics, including reluctance of victims to come forward, tolerance in their communities, and the savviness of some criminals who hide their motivation for attacks because they know hate crimes carry more severe penalties.