Since President Trump's election, reports of hate crimes and bias incidents have skyrocketed on social and traditional media. But as a state and country, we don't do a good job tracking hate crimes and harassment.
Federal law requires the FBI to ask state and local law enforcement agencies for reports of such incidents, but many agencies simply decline to turn over records. In Arkansas in 2015, for instance, among 279 participating agencies only four submitted records, producing a total of only five incident reports. A massive disparity exists between the 250,000 hate crimes that the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated occurred on average from 2004 until 2015, and the 5,850 that were reported to the FBI in 2015.
Arkansas is also one of only five states without a hate crime law. Rep. Greg Leding (D-Fayetteville) and Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) co-sponsored a bill in the legislature earlier this year that would have created an enhanced sentence for a hate crime, but it failed to advance out of the House Judiciary Committee.
To help address the deficiencies in reporting, the Arkansas Times has joined ProPublica's "Documenting Hate" project. The nonprofit news organization is teaming up with newsrooms across the country to track hate incidents that might otherwise go unreported. The project aims to create a comprehensive database of where hate crimes are happening and what groups are being targeted. If you have an incident to report, find the "Documenting Hate" web form at arktimes.com/dochate. Information provided will not be shared with law enforcement or to anyone outside the group working on the project.