Hate crimes often go unreported

  • Article by: EDITORIAL , New York Times
  • Updated: August 15, 2012 - 10:29 PM

The recent murders at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin have raised this issue in the public consciousness.

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Mourners take part in a candle light vigil for the victims of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting, in Milwaukee, Sunday, Aug 5, 2012.

Photo: Jeffrey Phelps, Associated Press

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Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told the Senate in 2009 that "we have a significant hate-crimes problem in this country." The recent murders at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin have raised this issue in the public consciousness.

But, too often, bias-motivated violence is underreported to state and local police departments, even when states and cities have hate-crime laws on the books. In many cases, such violence is prosecuted as conventional crime.

In 2010, the last year for which there are data, neither Miami nor New Orleans reported the occurrence of any hate crimes to the federal government, even though the press reported such crimes in both cities.

Underreporting leads to underenforcement, which matters because, as Holder said, "bias-motivated acts of violence divide our communities, intimidate our most vulnerable citizens, and damage our collective spirit."

These acts should be investigated and prosecuted for the broad harm they do to communities, well beyond their individual victims.

 

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