Illinois police departments are getting better at reporting hate crime information to the FBI, but about 75 percent of departments failed to report at least once from 2009 through 2014, according to information collected by the Associated Press.
In 2009, roughly two-thirds of departments did not report information for the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database. In 2014, that declined to about one-third.
Nationally, Illinois ranked 34 out of 50 states in the percentage of agencies that didn’t report anything for the six years. Almost 22 percent of all Illinois departments did not report at all during that time.
The AP included on its list all agencies that were active as of 2015, regardless of whether they existed from 2009 through 2014, so there may be some new or old agencies that could show up as missing numbers for certain years.
For example, if a department was founded in 2012, data would show that it hadn’t reported for the years before that. In addition, some agencies may have combined, which would mark one of the two agencies as missing in the years afterward.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by bias against someone’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.
In the metro-east, many departments failed to report a hate crime to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports at least one year in six from 2009 to 2014, according to the database. Edwardsville and O’Fallon missed 2009, while Belleville missed 2009, 2011 and 2014.
But Detective Sgt. Mark Heffernan of the Belleville Police Department wrote in an email, the department had, in fact, submitted information in those years.
“The Belleville Police Department reports hate crime statistics to the Illinois State Police (ISP) who, in turn, reports to the FBI,” he wrote in an email.
“It is unknown why the 2009 and 2011 data is not contained in your report,” he wrote, adding that the department missed the 2014 publication cut-off for FBI statistics but turned in information afterward.
The AP’s 2014 information shows there were 322 non-reporting agencies out of 951 total departments, but ISP said that there were only 268 departments that didn’t submit data that year. The department stated it keeps its books open longer than the FBI.
109 hate crimes reported in Illinois in 2014
Reporting hate-crime statistics to the FBI is voluntary, just like reporting violent crime is also voluntary, but the FBI encourages reporting for both categories even if there haven’t been any crimes.
So, if there were no hate crimes, the department should report “0,” just like it would if there were no murders.
The AP’s information contains primarily local police departments, including sheriffs. Schools and colleges are not included, and neither are tribal, state, or other agencies like airport or park police.
Illinois saw 109 hate crimes in 2014, 57 of which were motivated by race; 26 by sexual orientation; 14 by religion; and 12 by ethnicity.
According to the 2014 reported numbers, the O’Fallon and Shiloh police departments were the only metro-east departments to work a hate-crime. They had one apiece.
The O’Fallon Police Department could not locate the police report without the case number, which was not included in the AP’s information. The attack was motivated by race.
Shiloh Police, on the other hand, could locate the document. In it, a white man claimed that two black men poured water and food on him at a restaurant because of his race. The man said the perpetrators called him “fat white boy,” according to the police report.
FBI crime statistics include a variety of information about where attacks occurred in 2014. Nationwide, about 32 percent of the 5,479 total attacks were in residences.
The next most frequent location was near highways, roads and sidewalks, which were sites for 18 percent of attacks. Parking lots and garages accounted for 6 percent of attacks.
That ranking — residences, roads, other/unknown (about 12 percent) and parking spots — were unchanged across all individual attacks with the exception of attacks motivated by religion, 16 percent of which occurred at places of worship.
Eight metro-east departments did not report any information from 2009 through 2014, including:
▪ St. Jacob
Alan Young, chief of police for Baldwin, shed light on one of the reasons why those departments haven’t reported: they’re too small.
Young, for example, is the Baldwin Police Department. When he’s not working, Randolph County Sheriffs keep watch, he said, adding that the sheriffs report UCR data for Baldwin.
“I can’t tell you when the last time (was),” Young said about hate crimes in his area of 350 people.
Young, who’s been patrolling Baldwin for a dozen years, said he sees more code violations than criminal violations. And he hasn’t heard any of the old-timers speak of any murders, either.
Detective Demarius Thomas of the Centreville Police Department said that no one knew the person who was in charge of hate crime reports wasn’t sending them.
“We were out of compliance,” he said. “We’re back in compliance now.”
The person who hadn’t been submitting the reports no longer works with the Centreville Police, he said.
Another reason why departments did not report is that they didn’t have any hate crimes those particular years.
The Crime Victim Advocacy Center, which is based in St. Louis but also covers Illinois, works with hate-crime victims to seek justice, Director of Advocacy Services Jessica Meyers said. Because it can be difficult to determine hate crimes, she described how the advocacy group takes special steps to make sure hate crimes are reported as such, including helping determine why the victims believe it to be a hate crime, how they can document the crimes, and how to overcome any anxiety and present that information to police.
Because victims of hate crimes are often from marginalized groups and may have to disclose a lot of personal information when reporting the crime, they can be reluctant to work with law-enforcement agencies, Meyers said.
She emphasized that the problem is not the fault of police necessarily, but a systemic issue of acceptance. Therefore, the Crime Victim Advocacy Center often acts as an intermediary between the two groups. She described one instance that was not a hate crime, in which the group told one of its clients to call the center and give the phone to police so a representative could talk on his behalf.
The FBI agrees that it can sometimes be difficult to determine which crimes are hate crimes.
“Because motivation is subjective,” the Bureau’s methodology states, “it is sometimes difficult to know with certainty whether a crime resulted from the offender’s bias.”
“Moreover, the presence of bias alone does not necessarily mean that a crime can be considered a hate crime,” the description goes on to say. “Only when a law enforcement investigation reveals sufficient evidence to lead a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by his or her bias, should an agency report an incident as a hate crime.”
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that 60 percent of hate crimes go unreported, according to a press release from 2013. However, that number is based on a survey and can’t be compared to the FBI’s data, an AP reporter wrote in an email.