Today, the FBI released their annual Hate Crimes Report, showing a slight decrease in the number of bias-motivated crimes reported in 2018, along with fewer agencies reporting at least one hate crime. The report also noted the majority of incidents were motivated by a victim’s race, ethnicity and ancestry (59.5%), religion (18.6%), and sexual orientation and gender identity (16.9%).
In an internal comparison of the FBI’s data and the list of states where 26 trans identifying individuals were murdered in 2018, the Matthew Shepard Foundation found that of the 15 states where these violent acts occurred, all but one reported zero hate crimes during that year. “In today’s society of blatant hate speech against the LGBTQ+ community, we believe that it is highly unlikely to conclude that all but one of these 26 murders were not motivated by hate,” remarked Jason Marsden, Matthew Shepard Foundation Executive Director.
The combination of severe underreporting of bias-motivated violence, along with a drastic increase in hate speech over the past 4 years, and the all too often misgendering of victims has negatively impacted government’s ability to respond appropriately to these crimes.
Cynthia Deitle, Programs and Operations Director for the Matthew Shepard Foundation and former Special Agent and Civil Rights Unit Chief with the FBI said, “After 25 years of working in the hate crimes space, these numbers simply highlight the alarming fact that our hate crime reporting systems, at the federal, state and municipal level, are so broken.”
In 2017, the Department of Justice National Crime Victimization Survey reported that U.S. residents experienced an average of 250,000 hate crimes each year from 2004-2015. Yet the FBI’s hate crime statistics continue to document between 5,500 and 7,800 incidents per year.
Data such as this make our efforts at the Matthew Shepard Foundation even more critical as we focus on providing hate crimes trainings to law enforcement and prosecutors across the country, giving them greater understanding of the threats facing all marginalized communities. After completing our unique training, officers are proficient in recognizing and identifying bias indicators when responding to a hate crime, in addition to enhancing their ability to engage with the victim in a sensitive and respectful manner. Our training also informs police and prosecutors on how to work together to effectively obtain a conviction and accurately report hate crimes data.
“After training almost 800 officers and prosecutors over the past two years in partnership with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, it is apparent that the vast majority of our participants have never been trained on how to identify, prosecute, and report bias motivated crimes,” stated Deitle.
Since January 2018, the Matthew Shepard Foundation has provided hate crimes training seminars in over twelve cities across the nation, to deliver the message loud and clear that hate crimes must be a priority for police departments of every size in every state. “There is great power in numbers and in order to make our goal a reality, we must make these numbers more credible,” added Deitle.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation fully supports the enactment of the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality Act of 2019 to increase the accuracy of the FBI’s collection of hate crime data. The Foundation commends the 40 Field Offices of the FBI who reported hate crime data to the Uniform Crime Report and we expect that number to increase over time as all 56 Field Offices become active participants in their own Uniform Crime Report.