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Police often ill-equipped to handle hate crimes

Less than half of people who are victims of hate crimes file reports with police, and an even lesser percentage see a conviction. In an attempt to examine the scale and effects of hate crimes in the U.S., ProPublica earlier this year launched the project “Documenting Hate.” The project’s manager, journalist Rachel Glickhouse, joins Alison Stewart for a year-end review.

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  • ALISON STEWART:

    The police here in New York are investigating a potential hate crime that occurred on Tuesday in which a group of teenage girls spit on and beat a hijab wearing woman at her apartment building. The girls also allegedly called her a terrorist and told her to go back to her country. That incident stands out because the police were notified. But as the investigative journalism organization ProPublica reports, violent hate crimes often go unreported. And there's very little documentation of lower level incidents of harassment and intimidation. So ProPublica has undertaken a new project called 'Documenting Hate' and try and track this national problem and verify reports of such incidents. Here with me now is Rachel Glickhouse of ProPublica. So as you went into this trying to research this you found that it was hard to look at the data because there wasn't much data? Why?

  • RACHEL GLICKHOUSE:

    The data is very bad. First of all 90% of local law enforcement last year reported zero hate crimes to the FBI saying no hate crimes happened here. And one of the reasons for this, there are a couple of things. One is that police don't always get training on hate crimes. They may not know how to identify one. So we've found a lot of confusion on the local level about how to identify hate crime and how to track a hate crime. Only about a dozen states require police academy has to do a hate crime training.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    And not all states even recognize hate crimes?

  • RACHEL GLICKHOUSE:

    That's correct. So there are federal hate crime laws that cover the entire country but five states don't have any hate crime laws and some states don't protect every single group that the federal laws protect. So for example some states don't cover LGBT crimes.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Is there any trend in terms of hate crimes in the past year based on either race, religion, sexual orientation?

  • RACHEL GLICKHOUSE:

    So one of the things that we've seen again and again is the 'go back to your country' line. So we have seen this a lot of xenophobic type incidents that are usually harassment in nature but sometimes are assault as well. Where that phrase is used and is often happening in some of these harassment incidents that take place in all corners of public life on the street, schools.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    The public nature of it. it used to be people lurking online but now it's quite public?

  • RACHEL GLICKHOUSE:

    Yes it's quite public and it's happening really and everywhere you can imagine, A couple of cities saw an increase in hate incidents happening on public transportation that have been videotaped this year and have gone viral. So it's really happening in all places of public life. And this phrase is sometimes used in harassment. When someone's attacking another person verbally but sometimes they're also happening in more serious cases. So there were several hate crime murders this year where that phrase was also used.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    How are you getting your information?

  • RACHEL GLICKHOUSE:

    One thing we're doing is going straight to the public. One reason for that is that more than half of the crime victims don't report to the police. So we're hoping that we can gather information that's falling through the cracks that is not even making it to police. So on documentinghate.com we have a form that the public can fill out if they have been a victim or a witness of a hate crime or a hate incident. And that gets fed into a database and a journalist will follow up with them to verify their story. We also sent hundreds of Freedom of Information Act request to police departments around the country asking for their high crime numbers since 2010 and that's what we used to compare to the FBI numbers and see what they were coming back with. And our reporting partners, we have more than 130 media organizations around the country working with us and we give them those tips coming in from the public. We also work with civil rights organizations that give us tips that they can follow up on. And these Freedom of Information Act request responses that come back to us so they can see what's happening in their city.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    And we should mention that news hours will to your partners.

  • RACHEL GLICKHOUSE:

    Indeed.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    And so the work will continue. Rachel Glickhouse from ProPublica. Thanks so much.

  • RACHEL GLICKHOUSE:

    Thank you.

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