The FBI has released the hate crimes statistics for 2006, and those statistics show an 8 percent increase nationally. Michigan reported 739 hate crimes during 2006. The majority of those reported crimes were acts of intimidation in 249 instances. But hate crime authorities said the report may not be all that accurate.
“I can tell you that I know for a fact the FBI data is way under reported,” said Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for the Triangle Foundation in Detroit. Triangle Foundation monitors and reports on hate crimes perpetrated against the LGBT community.
Kosofsky said the reports are skewed because the majority of police agencies in the country do not have a mechanism to report hate or bias crimes. As an indicator of the lack of accuracy on the numbers, Kosofsky pointed out the numbers from 1998, when Matthew Shepard a gay Wyoming College student was brutally murdered. The FBI report for that year listed only one anti-gay murder, Shepards. But the National Coalition Against Violence Programs (NCAVP), a coalition of groups like Triangle Foundation, tracking and monitoring hate crimes against the LGBT community, reported 33 anti-gay murders in 1998.
“Whenever the FBI puts out data, the numbers are just completely not the full picture,” Kosofosky said. “It is just barely scraping the service.”
Kosofsky added that even his own group’s reports are not necessarily catching all the hate crimes. “What is instructive is that we may never have a (complete) picture of what is going on out there. We think we are capturing only 30 percent of the crimes.”
He said many victims won’t report the crimes against them for a host of reasons, from fear of being outed as gay, re-victimization by police agencies, or other fears– such as immigrants fearing deportation.
“We’d like to take the opportunity of this report to encourage hate crime victims to report the violence against them whenever they can,” Kosofsky added, “and remind victims of anti-LGBT violence, harassment, vandalism and other crimes to report these heinous acts to Triangle,” said Kosofsky.
He did say that the increase noted in the 2006 hate crime statistics could be showing an actual trend. “It is not uncommon when the economy is doing poorly for hate crimes to go up. There is sometimes an inclination to take out your anxiety on those people around you. When ever the economy dips, there is a spike in hate crimes, literature, and other things that feed conservative and anti-minority violence. I know in Michigan if there has been a jump, I would say that is absolutely consistent with what we know is true in a bad economy.”
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