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Why underreporting of hate crimes remains a problem

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A makeshift memorial stands outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in the aftermath of a deadly shooting in Pittsburgh, Oct. 29, 2018.

NewsNation, December 2023

With Jewish and Muslim communities facing an increase in hate crimes since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war, the reality is the number of these crimes is likely underreported in the U.S.

The FBI reports the number of hate crimes committed in the U.S. annually; however, hate crime specialists warn that these numbers are often underreported, particularly in certain communities. Hate crimes — those committed due to some biased motive like hatred of a particular race or religion — rely on community members to report these incidents and for police and local officials to take them seriously.

“There’s different dynamics that keep people from reporting hate crimes,” said Northeastern University criminologist Jack McDevitt, who helped the FBI compile its first hate crimes report in 1990. McDevitt said that sometimes people don’t recognize that a crime they experienced was bias-motivated. Other times, they fear being retaliated against if they report the crime. Some groups don’t feel comfortable talking to police at all.

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