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Half of Hate Crimes Unreported         06/29 06:09

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The majority of hate crimes experienced by U.S. residents 
over a 12-year period were not reported to police, according to a new federal 
report released Thursday that stoked advocates' concerns about ongoing tensions 
between law enforcement and black and Latino communities.

   More than half of the 250,000 hate crimes that took place each year between 
2004 and 2015 went unreported to law enforcement for a variety of reasons, 
according to a special report on hate crimes from the Bureau of Justice 
Statistics. Hate crimes were most often not reported because they were handled 
some other way, the report said. But people also did not come forward because 
they didn't feel it was important or that police would help.

   The report, based on a survey of households, is one of several studies that 
aim to quantify hate crimes. Its release comes as the Justice Department 
convenes a meeting on Thursday with local law enforcement officials and experts 
to discuss hate crimes, including a lack of solid data on the problem 
nationwide. Attorney General Jeff Session is scheduled to speak.

   The new survey shows the limits of hate crime reporting, said Brian Levin, 
the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, California 
State University.

   "Many victims don't report hate crimes because of personal and institutional 
reasons," Levin said. For example, some Latino immigrants may be reluctant to 
call police after an apparent hate crime for fear of deportation, he said.

   Advocates fear that problem is worsening as the Trump administration ramps 
up immigration enforcement.

   The report says Hispanics were victimized at the highest rate, followed by 
blacks.

   "I think this report shows the kind of fear that is going on in our 
communities," said Patricia Montes, executive director of the Boston-based 
immigrant advocacy group Centro Presente. She worries Latinos will even be more 
reluctant to report hate crimes in the future.

   The new report said there was no significant increase in the number of hate 
crimes between 2004 and 2015. It cites racial bias as the top motivation, 
representing more than 48 percent of the cases between 2011 and 2015. Hate 
crimes motivated by ethnicity accounted for about 35 percent of those cases, 
and sexual orientation represented about 22 percent. Almost all of those 
surveyed said they felt they were experiencing a hate crime because of 
something the perpetrator said.

   Law enforcement officials have long grappled with how to catalog hate 
crimes. While some victims' distrust of police keeps them from coming forward, 
Levin said, some LGBT victims may opt not to report a hate crime for fear of 
losing a job or being outed to family.

   Levin said many large cities are claiming they had no hate crimes --- 
calling into question the reliability of federal hate crimes data that are 
based on voluntary submissions from police departments. "We have Columbus, 
Ohio, reporting more hate crimes than the state of Florida," he said.

   Eric Treene, the Justice Department's special counsel for religious 
discrimination, lamented the lack of solid data on hate crimes during a Senate 
Judiciary Committee hearing in May, saying incomplete numbers stymie officials' 
ability to fully understand the problem.

   But he said the department is committed to prosecuting hate crimes, even as 
critics have blamed the Trump administration's tough rhetoric and policies for 
a spike in such offenses. Civil rights groups said investigating and 
prosecuting hate crimes alone would be insufficient.

   "It's past time for the Trump administration and the Sessions Justice 
Department to demonstrate, through action and its megaphone, its full and 
unflagging commitment to preventing hate-based violence and harassment that 
hurts our communities and destroys the fabric of our nation," said Vanita 
Gupta, the top civil rights official in the Obama Justice Department and 
president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

   ___

   Associated Press writer Russell Contreras contributed to this story from 
Albuquerque, New Mexico.

   ___

   Follow Sadie Gurman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sgurman

   Follow Russell Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras


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