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Newly-released FBI hate crimes report has errors

Photo courtesy MGN.
Photo courtesy MGN.(KKTV)
Published: Nov. 12, 2019 at 6:47 PM AKST
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Hate crimes nearly doubled in Alaska from 2017 to 2018, according to the FBI's 2018 Hate Crime Statistics, released Nov. 12. But KTUU has learned, the numbers are inaccurate.

For the 2018 report, four jurisdictions in Alaska - Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, and Kotzebue - reported a combined total of 7 hate crime incidents. That's up from 4 reported incidents across the state in 2017.

Three of the crimes captured in the data came from Fairbanks.

"None of them was a hate crime," Fairbanks Police Chief Nancy Reeder told KTUU in a phone call Tuesday.

2Investigates placed calls to the four police departments which reported incidents. The Fairbanks police chief and the Anchorage Police Department returned KTUU's calls. The Kotzebue and Juneau Police Departments did not immediately return our calls.

Alaska communities enter crime states into the federal Uniform Crime Report via the Criminal Records and Identification Bureau within the Alaska Department of Safety, which gathers data from around the state and passes it on to the FBI.

Chief Reeder told KTUU her review of the three incidents reported by her department showed that none of the incidents were hate crimes, yet officers categorized them as such. "It's a training issue," Reeder said.

She called the three incidents, which took place in March, June and August of 2018, "simple assaults."

In one incident, two cousins had caused a disturbance when one who was intoxicated refused to leave the other's home.

In a second incident, the offender had entered a homeless camp, gestured as though he had a weapon, and verbally threatened his victim using profanity and the phrase "run Forrest Gump," which could be perceived as a slur against individuals with cognitive disabilities. Prosecutors declined to take the case, Reeder said.

In the third incident, two juveniles committed an armed robbery at a bus stop. The juveniles were identified as Hispanic and African American, and used the N-word when demanding "Give me your wallet our you're dead," Reeder said. The victim was identified as a Caucasian male. The juveniles were arrested for robbery and assault.

The latter cases reflect what Adam Pierce, Special Agent in Charge for the FBI's Anchorage field office explained is a difference between bias, and a biased-based crime.

The FBI defines a hate crime as any "traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias," and explains "bias can be "against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity."

Hate alone is not a crime. Hate crimes require an underlying crime that is motivated by, or carried out, because of bias.

Pierce explained that a bar fight between two men that starts over the outcome of a televised football game, and which continues with the men using racial slurs, is not a hate crime because the fight started over a sports disagreement. But if one of the men had entered the bar looking to start a fight with a member of a protected class, then an ensuing fight might indeed be a hate crime.

The 2018 Hate Crimes Report indicates crimes against people and property formed the basis for the hate incidents in Alaska in 2018, including assault, intimidation, robbery, and vandalism.

Nationally, hate crimes are down slightly. In 2018, 7,120 hate crimes were reported to the FBI's uniform crime report; in 2017, 7,175 were reported.

Researchers and law enforcement officers have previously told KTUU they believe hate crimes are under-reported in Alaska, where hate crime reporting has remained relatively low over the last five years:

2018 - 7 incidents (according to the published report)

2017 - 4 incidents

2016 - 11 incidents

2015 - 8 incidents

2014 - 6 incidents

Pierce encourages training for local law enforcement agencies, and for victims to come forward.

"What this does is let the community know, with the best information we have, what our picture is nationally what our picture is here in the State of Alaska or certain communities. Knowledge is power," Pierce said.

Note: This article has been updated to correctly identify the Alaska state agency that collects and reports UCR data.
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