Two cases out of Panola County, Mississippi, highlight the issue.
Johnny Lee Butts, 61, and Garrick Burdette, 41, are two Black men who were killed in hit-and-runs that witnesses say were racially motivated in Panola County, Mississippi.
Neither of the killings, which took place in 2012 and 2009, have been reported as hate crimes. Burdette's death was left forgotten by police until CNN reporters began investigating.
In Panola County, hate crimes are almost never reported. This pattern highlights a bigger issue of hate crimes being underreported in the U.S. Research by the FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics shows a gap in how often hate crimes are reported in states historically known for blatant racial discrimination.
When these incidents go undocumented, authorities are unable to measure whether laws against hate crimes are truly effective.
"The data sucks," said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the issue. "Hate crime data as the FBI reports is underreported by an ungodly amount."
In 2005, 2006 and 2007 there were zero hate crime incidents reported in the state of Mississippi, according to the FBI.
"States like California have thousands of hate crimes, and the state of Mississippi with its record of racial animus has none?" said Beirich. "It's ridiculous."'
Federal law has required states to collect hate crime data since the early 1990s. Congress has defined a hate crime as a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation."
Donny Butts stands on a Mississippi roadside where his father was killed by a white teen driver.
But states don't have to report their data to the FBI if they don't want to. Four states — Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Ohio — don't even have a Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program.
The result, critics say, is a federal data system that costs $1 million-plus but offers very little help to authorities who investigate, identify and track hate crimes.
Read the full story here.
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