Hate Crimes Rise in Kansas City Area, Some Community Leaders Believe Trend Will Continue | KCUR 89.3
The most recent data from the FBI shows that Missouri, Kansas and the rest of the country have seen a substantial increase in reported hate crimes in 2020.
In Missouri, 115 hate crimes were reported, up 29% from 2019. Kansas saw an even larger increase with a 65% increase. There have been 124 reported hate crimes, which was the most in Kansas since at least 1990.
Law enforcement officials across the country reported 7,759 criminal incidents to the FBI last year, the highest number since 2008. This is an increase of about 450 incidents from 2019 , although fewer agencies reported hate crimes in 2020 than in previous years.
The numbers come as no surprise Gavriella Geller, director of the Jewish Community Relations Bureau and the American Jewish Committee in Kansas City, who expects the numbers for 2021 to be even higher.
“This is generally the trajectory that we have been following for several years now,” said Geller. “Whenever you see periods of social or economic anxiety, efforts will be made to blame the scapegoating groups. “
During the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial calculation spurred by the murder of George Floyd by police, Geller said African Americans, people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, Jews and Muslims are coming together are all found victims of hatred.
According to 2020 FBI figures, Kansas had 28 hate crimes motivated by offender’s prejudice against religion, including 10 anti-Orthodox, six anti-Jewish, and four anti-Sikh crimes. In 2019, 26 such hate crimes were reported in the state.
Missouri reported five anti-Islamic crimes, three anti-Sikhs and two anti-Jews, with a total of 14 anti-religious crimes reported for the year, a slight decrease from 2019.
There were 1,174 anti-religious crimes reported to the FBI nationwide in 2020, but statistics from the Anti-Defamation League anti-Semitic incidents alone have exceeded 2,000.
Problems with data collection
Hate crime statistics are notoriously difficult to collect, and some Kansas City community leaders expect the real numbers to be much higher.
“Despite a nationwide increase in reported hate crimes, underreporting remains a major obstacle to the investigation of these incidents, leading to a lack of accountability for bias-motivated offenses that can intimidate, isolate and terrorize entire communities,” Aaron Ahlquist, ADL Southern director of policy for the division, KCUR told in an email.
“The atmosphere is such that many African Americans and other dark-haired people do not report all the hate crimes that have been committed against them,” said Reverend Rodney Williams, chairman of the Kansas City, Missouri, branch of the NAACP. “They feel the odds are stacked against them, that they will not get any satisfaction.”
African Americans most victims
Most of the race-based hate crimes last year in Kansas, Missouri, and across the country were aimed at African Americans. Of the 4,939 hate crime incidents targeting people because of their race, more than 55% were black.
In Missouri, nearly 70% of 76 race-based crimes victimized African Americans, who make up about 12% of the state’s population. There have also been 12 reported anti-White incidents and three against Latinos.
Kansas authorities reported 85 race-based crimes last year, more than double the previous year, with 54 of last year’s incidents targeting African Americans, 19 targeting whites, and seven anti- Hispanic or Latino reported.
“If people felt free to report and felt that something was going to change or something was going to happen, I would say you would probably see three, maybe four times the number,” said Williams.
Geller doesn’t see the same mistrust within his community, but noted that reporting a discriminatory incident could be traumatic enough to prevent someone from calling the police.
“Sometimes people just want to leave these examples behind and not have to relive them,” she said.
Compare “apples to apples”
The Stop the hate coalition AAPI was launched last year, after a gunman killed eight people, including six of Asian origin, in a series of shootings in the Atlanta area.
They track incidents of hate, violence, harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, and have reported more than 6,600 such incidents from March 2020 to March 2021. But for 2020, nationwide law enforcement authorities reported just 288 anti-Asians. or -Pacific Island Incidents at the FBI.
This discrepancy is because not all incidents of discrimination are crimes, Geller said, and because reporting hate crime statistics to the FBI is completely voluntary.
In May, POLITICO reported that nearly a quarter of major cities reported no hate crimes, “a statistical virtual impossibility,” and more than 80% of the 15,000 law enforcement agencies reported no hate crimes, including Olathe and Overland Park, Kansas and Columbia, Missouri.
Kansas statistics are based on data from 359 of the state’s 418 law enforcement agencies that year, according to the FBI. In Missouri, 549 of 594 agencies reported data.
All of this variability means quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year, “comparing isn’t exactly apples to apples,” Geller said.
Passed as part of COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in May, the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act aims to alleviate the problem. Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran was the original co-sponsor of Bill.
“Collecting information on hate crimes across the country will help us better understand the daily threats faced by racial, religious and ethnic communities,” Moran told senators during consideration of the bill.
To this end, the law supports law enforcement agencies that establish policy to identify, investigate and report hate crimes. It also encourages agencies to develop a hate crime data collection system, establish a hate crimes unit, and engage in community relations to address hate crimes.
The bill bears the name Khalid Jabara and Heather heyer, whose deaths were not recorded in the FBI’s hate crimes report.
Williams of the NAACP, who is pastor of Swope Parkway United Christian Church, agrees that better reporting would lead to a better understanding of the problem.
He also takes a spiritual approach to change the situation.
“If America’s hearts and conscience don’t change, we’re not going to see major reform,” Williams said. “We have to begin to understand that all of humanity is created equal. They simply cannot be words in the Constitution, but they must be words that are lived. “