November 14 at 9:28 AM
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What it takes to track and prosecute a hate crime

This is how a hate crime is defined and how federal and state authorities prosecute them. 

The FBI announced on Tuesday a disturbing 17 percent increase in reported hate crimes last year.Law enforcement agencies disclosed 7,175 hate crimes in America during 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016. This is the third consecutive year that reported hate crimes have increased, and it’s the single biggest spike since the surge of incidents targeting Muslims in 2001 after the attacks on Sept. 11.

But the reporting of these incidents remains uneven and inconsistent, both by victims and law enforcement. The definition of “hate crimes” varies by state, as do punishments, and even the federal standard has shifted over time. The FBI, which has pleaded for more cooperation from local law enforcement, notes that about 1,000 more agencies contributed information for this year’s report than last year’s. But those additional numbers don’t explain much of the increase. Massachusetts reports lots of incidents, for example, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there are more hate crimes per capita than in Mississippi, which experts say underreports.

— “Of the hate crimes that likely occur each year in our country, only about 1 percent are reported in official federal statistics,” estimates Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute.

One especially startling figure: The FBI’s new report shows anti-Semitic hate crimes rose 37 percent in 2017. “The new FBI data comes less than a month after the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history — a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 and wounded six,” Devlin Barrett notes. “The suspect in that attack has been charged with dozens of federal hate crimes, and that one incident alone accounted for nearly as many hate crime killings as were recorded all of last year in the United States: 15.”

But the Anti-Defamation League’s independent annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, which the group has been tracking closely since 1979, found an even bigger jump of 57 percent in 2017, compared to 2016.

The ADL notes that 16,149 law enforcement agencies participated in the FBI’s 2017 crime data collection effort, but only 2,040 of these agencies, about 13 percent, reported one or more hate crimes to the FBI. That means 87 percent of police agencies reported that there were zero hate crimes to the FBI. To prod them to be more forthcoming and/or change the way they classify incidents, the ADL posted a list of 91 cities with populations exceeding 100,000 people that either did not report any data to the FBI about hate crimes or reported that there were zero such crimes in their jurisdiction during 2017.

Not knowing just how many hate crimes are truly happening makes it harder to address the problem.“You can’t move what you can’t measure,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s chief executive. “It is incumbent on police departments, mayors, governors and county officials across the country to tally hate crimes data and report it to the FBI. The FBI can only report the data they receive. We must do more to make sure that cities report credible data.”

A few specific examples: “In 2017, the city of Miami reported zero hate crimes, while Miami-Dade County reported one,” the Los Angeles Times’s Jaweed Kaleem reports. “Of the 28 law enforcement agencies the FBI requested numbers from in Mississippi, 27 reported zero hate crimes or did not respond. The one that replied said there was one hate crime during the year. … Olathe, Kan., the location of last year’s deadly shooting of an Indian-born engineer after a man yelled at him about his immigration status, reported zero hate crimes.”

Some observers say that the climate of racial hatred has been stoked by President Trump’s incendiary rhetoric, in which he has demeaned illegal immigrants, insulted African American reporters and suggested Jewish businessman George Soros, a prominent liberal donor, might be responsible for funding the migrant caravan headed to the U.S. border.

In wake of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Rosenstein vows DOJ will fight hate crimes. After the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, the DOJ announced an $840,000 grant to study the collection of hate-crimes data. “In a typical year, the Justice Department charges a few dozen people with hate crimes, and local and state law-enforcement agencies deal with a few thousand of their own cases. But the Justice Department itself—through its research arm, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which conducts surveys of crime victims—has found reason to believe that about two hundred and fifty thousand hate crimes were committed in the United States each year between 2004 and 2015,” the New Yorker’s Eric Lach reports.

The Brennan Center, part of NYU’s law school, released a report last month suggesting that Congress could pass legislation to standardize what information must be reported and to require that it be more specific.

Last night, the city council in Charleston, S.C. – where nine African Americans were killed by a white supremacist at their church in 2015 – voted to advance a new “hate intimidation” ordinance. The local government decided to act because the state government has failed to do so.“South Carolina is one of five states that does not legally recognize hate crimes. That means it is up to the Department of Justice to determine if they’ll seek prosecution,” according to WCSC, the Charleston CBS affiliate. “The ordinance says people will be punished if they have the intent to intimidate another person because of their perceived race, color, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability or national origin.” In August, a transgender woman was attacked in downtown Charleston. The police chief said the new law could have applied to that assault case if it had been on the books.

There are other yawning gaps in the law.The white man accused of fatally shooting two African Americans inside a Kroger grocery store last month is facing murder charges in Kentucky, and authorities say the incident was racially motivated. But the local prosecutor says he cannot charge Gregory Bush with a hate crime because the state’s hate crimes statute does not cover homicides.

D.C. man with alleged white nationalist ties arrested after relatives alert police. Jeffrey R. Clark Jr. was arrested on a gun charge Nov. 9 after relatives alerted police to his alleged white nationalist outbursts, according to court filings.“A D.C. man who described himself as a white nationalist to law enforcement officers and became a social-media follower of the suspect in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting has been arrested on a gun charge,” Spencer Hsu and Peter Hermann report. “Jeffrey R. Clark Jr., 30, is charged with illegally possessing a firearm and a high-capacity magazine and made his initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Washington. … Clark, who lives in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, was arrested … after two family members alerted police to his increasingly agitated outbursts, including that the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh shooting ‘deserved it. The outbursts occurred in the wake of Clark’s brother’s suicide.

“Relatives told police both brothers had been involved in alt-right movements … Jeffrey Clark told FBI agents he and his brother became interested in guns in 2016 ‘because they believed there was going to be a civil war,’ according to an account of his statement filed in court. Court papers assert that after his brother’s death, Jeffrey Clark posted on Gab a photo of the brothers wearing masks and holding a shotgun and a rifle, in front of a flag with a skull and cross bones. … Of the attack on the synagogue, court papers said Jeffrey Clark posted a picture of the suspected gunman spattered in what appears to be blood and wrote, ‘This was a dry run for things to come.’

Authorities said in the court documents that the brothers ‘fantasized about killing ‘Jews and blacks’’ … The documents said the brothers had four guns between them … Court papers said Clark’s relatives told authorities that Clark admired Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and killer Charles Manson and that relatives said ‘Jeffrey and Edward Clark believed there would be a race revolution and they wanted to expedite it.’ Clark, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, did not enter a plea and said little at the hearing beyond confirming that he was a high school graduate and needed an appointed attorney.”

Also: It got lost last week because the news broke on the afternoon of Election Day, but a D.C. firefighter was charged with a hate crime in Pennsylvania related to a road rage incident.When he was off duty, the 32-year-old allegedly waved a handgun from inside his pickup truck at two African Americans, yelled racial slurs and said he’d hang the male driver from a tree. He denies the charges and is now on leave pending the outcomes of the criminal proceedings.

ARE THE KIDS ALRIGHT?

We hear all the time about supposed P.C. culture on campus, but often overlooked are near daily flashes of hate at colleges that are clearly intended to demean racial and religious minorities.The AP’s Collin Binkley reported last week on several such incidents in October alone that drew little national attention:

“Kevyn Perkins stopped cold when he saw the letters scrawled on the door to his dorm: ‘N—– go back’ it said, inked in messy red marker. First he was blinded by confusion. Then rage. And then all he could think about was dropping out, finding a new school, escaping for good. ‘I thought maybe I don’t belong here. So I called my brother and I said, ‘pick me up,’’ said Perkins, 19, a freshman at the University of St. Thomas, a private and mostly white school in St. Paul, Minnesota. ‘He said that’s what they want you to do — you have to stay there and stay strong.’ … Since he found the note Oct. 19, Perkins has become more withdrawn, he said, less outgoing. And although he decided to stay at St. Thomas, he’s left to wonder who on campus felt such hatred for him, and why.

“At the College of the Holy Cross in central Massachusetts, a student was beaten in an assault that officials say was motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation. No one has been arrested in connection with the crime. Students at DePauw University in Indiana reported four separate cases of hate speech in October. In three, racial and homophobic slurs and threats were yelled from cars passing by campus. In another case, a threat with the N-word was found in an elevator on campus. Anti-Semitic posters appeared at the University of California, Davis, blaming Jews for allegations of sexual assault that were made against Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“An Indiana woman was arrested last week after leaving a racist letter directed at African-American neighbors, urging them to leave the neighborhood because black people weren’t welcome. As early voting started in North Carolina, a black Republican volunteer was accosted with slurs and had a gun pulled on him at a polling place, leading to one man’s arrest. An Uber passenger in Colorado was arrested after threatening his Middle Eastern driver and chasing him down the street because police said he ‘hated all brown people.’ Violent clashes broke out in New York City after a speech by the founder of a far-right group, leading to three arrests. In a Texas courtroom, a man was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Oct. 17 for torching a mosque near the U.S.-Mexico border last year because of what authorities said was a ‘rabid hatred’ of Muslims.”

WHAT PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP CAN DO:

Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, recalls a little remembered but symbolically significant moment of her father’s presidency in an op-ed for today’s newspaper:

“On the morning of May 3, 1982, my father read a story in The Post about a black family in Maryland — the Butlers — who’d had a cross burned on their lawn in 1977. William M. Aitcheson, an ‘exalted cyclops’ of the Ku Klux Klan, was charged with the crime. Now, five years later, a federal judge had ordered him to pay the Butlers a civil judgment of $23,000. Except Aitcheson had apparently disappeared. When my father went down to the Oval Office that morning, he announced that he wanted to go visit the Butlers — that day.

“My parents sat with them in their living room and listened to what they had been subjected to as one of only five black families in the area. A car had driven onto their front lawn and taken out their lamppost. Garbage had been dumped onto their property. Then came the cross-burning. The cross was six feet tall and heavy. It was doubtful that Aitcheson had carried out the burning alone, but he had been the only one charged. ‘This isn’t something that should ever happen in America,’ my father told them.

“Thirty-five years later, another president learned of neo-Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville, which had led to the death of a young woman who bravely came out to counterprotest. The president’s reaction: ‘There are very fine people on both sides.’

“This isn’t something that should ever happen in America. We need to remember this when a campaign ad put out by the current president’s political team is so racist that even Fox News won’t run it. Or when the president proudly calls himself a nationalist and berates black female journalists, calling their questions ‘stupid’ and them incompetent. We need to remember, when children are ripped from their mothers’ arms and put into cages, that there was a time when such a thing wouldn’t happen in this country. These days, when blatant racism has been allowed to emerge from the shadows and sweep through neighborhoods, so that young black boys are yelled at for mowing a neighbor’s lawn, we need to think about how other presidents — including my father — viewed leadership.”