Q&A How federal reporting system is supposed to work

The FBI collects extensive data on hate crimes each year, but nearly 2,800 local law enforcement agencies are not submitting the information, according to an investigation by The Associated Press. Thousands more file reports with the FBI only sporadically.

Questions and answers about the federal reporting system, known as the Uniform Crime Reporting program:

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WHAT IS THE UNIFORM CRIME REPORTING SYSTEM?

Congress passed a law in 1930 authorizing the attorney general to compile crime statistics. Law enforcement agencies representing cities, counties, tribes, states, federal offices and colleges participate in the program, which remains voluntary.

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WHEN WERE HATE CRIMES ADDED?

The Hate Crime Statistics Act, passed by Congress in 1990, required the attorney general to collect data "about crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity." It was amended in 1994 to include bias against people with disabilities and again in 2009 to include information about crimes based on gender or gender identity.

SHOULD AGENCIES FILE A REPORT EVEN IF THEY DID NOT INVESTIGATE A SUSPECTED HATE CRIME?

Yes. The FBI encourages reporting by all law enforcement agencies whose officers are empowered to make arrests, even if that means recording zero for the period in question. Doing so is a signal to the FBI - and the community the agency services - that the local department is paying attention to these types of crimes.

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WHY IS THIS INFORMATION IMPORTANT?

The FBI's training manual says the collection and publication of hate crimes results in "greater awareness and understanding of the true dimensions of the problem nationwide." That provides law enforcement with a greater ability to target money, training or staff where they will be most effective. Community groups say a comprehensive tally of hate crimes would provide a truer picture of the extent of bias in the U.S., prompt lawmakers to address the problem and help law enforcement agencies build trust with minority communities.

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WHY DO SOME AGENCIES NOT FILE REPORTS WITH THE FBI?

Reasons vary. Several agencies thought they had submitted the information, while others were unsure they had to report because they said they had not had any hate crimes in their jurisdiction.

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HOW DOES A LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY KNOW WHEN TO CLASSIFY A CRIME AS A HATE CRIME?

The FBI standard is that a reasonable person would conclude the offender was motivated by bias. The agency's guidelines say local investigators should consider whether the victim is a member of a minority group where the incident took place, whether the crime occurred on a holiday or other date of significance for a particular group, and whether a substantial portion of the community believes bias was the motive.

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HOW ARE FEDERAL HATE CRIME CASES HANDLED?

The FBI only recently began reporting information about federal hate crime arrests, reflecting the broader push for more comprehensive data. In unveiling the new reporting initiative last September, the FBI cited previous challenges to integrating federal data into the crime reporting system. For 2014, the FBI reported 32 hate crime arrests across its domestic field offices.

Published: Mon, Jun 06, 2016

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