With more high-profile hate crimes grabbing the national spotlight in recent months, why are such crimes still underreported and undercounted?
The answer is complicated. There are a number of problems collecting data on hate crimes, particularly when it comes to more high-profile incidents, says Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern. In the 1980s and ’90s, police departments were far more reluctant to classify certain crimes as hate crimes, fearing that it would paint the community as hateful, or as harboring hateful people, he says. “Local police departments said ‘Oh, we don’t want to call this a hate crime because people wouldn’t want to move to this town,’” McDevitt says.
Those concerns still exist today, McDevitt argues, noting that hate crimes have a “severe and profound impact” on the affected communities, in particular communities of color and immigrant communities. Take the Atlanta-area spa shootings, for example, involving the deaths of six Asian women, which generated an outpouring of solidarity for the Asian community and a movement against anti-Asian racism around the country. Such support reflects the deep trauma associated with hate crimes, McDevitt says.