Wednesday, November 27, 2013

So how much trust should we place in UCR Hate Crime statistics?

The FBI released their 2012 Uniform Crime Reports Hate Crime statistics this week.
According to statistics released today by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5,796 criminal incidents involving 6,718 offenses were reported in 2012 as being motivated by a bias toward a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or physical or mental disability.
Via The Federal Bureau of Investigation

While I am pretty comfortable with the crime data reported in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports numbers for UCR Part 1 crimes which are murders, robberies, burglaries and such. I have a whole lot less confidence in the Hate Crime numbers reported.

It's not that I don't trust police departments to dutifully report the numbers of crimes that meet the "hate crimes" definition nor is it that I don't trust the FBI's UCR program to collect and dutifully compile this numbers and issue a report. My problem is that it's much harder to divine the mind of a criminal to determine why they picked their victim.

Yes, there are rare cases when the criminal will report  to police "I hate those people and that's why I did it." But if several members of one race commit a crime against someone of another race how do we know if it's "motivated by a bias toward" the victim based on their race? Is there a certain number of racial epithets they must utter? What if they say nothing at all?

In a country with 319 million persons and 10,189,900 UCR Part 1 Crimes reported in 2012 I find it really hard to believe that there were only 6,718 "hate crimes". Keep in mind that those 10 million plus UCR Part 1 Crimes don't include all the Part 2 Crimes and all the crimes that aren't part of the Uniform Crime Reports program at all.

Kind if beggars belief doesn't it?

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