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Interpreting FBI Hate Crime Statistics: CWA Vs. UCLA

The Concerned Women for America (CWfA or CWA) state in their talking points about the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Protection Act (LLEHCPA) that:

The most recent FBI Uniform Crime Report shows that bias-motivated crimes are on the decline. In fact, less than 17% of all law enforcement agencies reported a single hate crime in 2005. A total of only 1,171 “sexual orientation” bias crimes were reported (one-half of which were name-calling, pushing or shoving) — representing the largest and most consistent decrease of all bias-motivated crimes.

The Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School has an updated study out, from which The Advocate reports:

Williams InstituteThe “Comparison of Hate Crime Rates across Protected and Unprotected Groups” shows that on average, 13 in 100,000 gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals per year report being the victim of a hate crime, compared with eight in 100,000 African-Americans, 12 in 100,000 American Muslims and 15 in 100,000 U.S. Jews.

“Often, people try to pass off (the lack of legal protection for gays) as ‘Oh, it’s not as big a problem as race-based hate crimes,'” says Rebecca Stotzer, a research fellow at the Williams Institute.

“But when you actually look at the rates and you think of it as a risk per person, you can see that the numbers are actually much more even between groups that are protected versus those that are not,” Stotzer said.

The new report was based on a 2004 study by Williams Institute faculty chairman William Rubenstein, but hate-crimes legislation now before Congress and the availability of more data prompted an update to the report.

The interpretation of FBI data coming out of the CWfA was by non-statitician Matt Barber:

(interpretations by CWfA and Williams Intitute after flip)

According to FBI statistics, there were nearly 1.4 million violent crimes in 2005. Of those, little more than 1,000 were reported as “hate crimes” directed against homosexuals or cross dressers. A full one-third of that 1,000 were reports of “intimidation” or “hateful” words as opposed to violent acts.

The interpetation of FBI statistics by the UCLA Law School was accomplished by Williams Institute faculty chairman William Rubenstein in 2004, and updated by Rebecca Stotzer, a Public Policy Fellow this year:

Although tracking is invaluable for understanding hate crimes in the United States, evidence suggests that underreporting is a problem. As with other types of crime, there is a large gap between what is reported by the police and what is reported in victimization surveys. A report from the Bureau of Justice statistics comparing the FBI data and victimization survey data suggests that only about 44% of hate crimes are reported to the police. Thus, these estimates are a conservative look at the number of hate crimes that are occurring across the United States…

…The FBI’s raw counts of hate crimes do not take into account the size of the populations covered. For example, racial and ethnic minorities account for about 30% of the total population of the United States, but the estimated population that identifies as gay, lesbian, or bisexual is only about 4%.4 Therefore, calculating proportional rates of possible victimization provides another important perspective for comparing hate crimes across groups.

I know who I trust interpretation of FBI data from more, and it’s not by the guy who’s the former Allstate Insurance Company Manager hired as the CWfA’s Policy Director for Cultural Issues — it’s the Williams Institute faculty chairman and one of the institute’s seinior fellows.


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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen