Through the Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) of 1990, the FBI gathers data on crimes committed because of a victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or ethnicity. However, cities aren’t required to give this data to the FBI.
There are a number of reasons for the gap in reporting, experts say. For one, people are generally reluctant to report hate crimes: The National Crime Victim’s Survey found that about half of all hate crimes are not reported to police, and only 4 percent of all violent hate crimes led to arrests.
Many police departments also lack the training — or the political will — to properly identify and report hate crimes, said Steven Freeman, vice president of civil rights at the Anti-Defamation League.
“It could be in some cases because they think it would make them look bad, and they would rather not,” he said. “It could be others just don’t have adequate training to understand what they’re looking at.”
But there’s a bigger issue: Without a comprehensive national standard, it’s up to states to decide what should be considered a hate crime. And many states disagree.