Police departments are supposed to submit hate-crime data to the FBI every year. In 2016, Miami-Dade County cops — the largest department overseeing a population of 2.7 million people, — reported that just a single hate-crime occurred all year. That number seemed low, so New Times last year asked MDPD Director Juan Perez about the number, and he said it was likely inaccurate. He added that his department was conducting an audit because it had “been brought to my attention that there may have been a lapse in” proper hate-crime reporting.
But, one year later, it does not appear that anything has changed. The FBI last week released its yearly hate-crime statistics and, once again, MDPD reported that just a single, “sexual-orientation-based” hate-crime occurred within its jurisdiction in 2017. That makes two hate crimes in two years in one of America’s largest metropolitan areas — a number so low it does not pass the smell-test.
The police department did not respond to a request for comment sent last Friday. But it’s unclear what the apparent issue might be — it’s possible that the department is keeping hate-crime lists that it does not submit to the FBI. Or the cops just be under-counting hate incidents in general, even as they are ballooning across the United States and causing politicians to take notice. Multiple news outlets, including CNN, the Washington Post, and NBC recently reported national FBI data showed a 17 percent increase last year. That rise was likely due to rhetoric used by President Donald Trump and his acolytes.
For what it’s worth, tons of police departments both locally and nationally either under-report hate-crimes, or fail to submit any data at all. City of Miami and Hialeah police departments reported zero hate crimes in both 2016 and 2017, for example, while Miami Gardens and North Miami police each reported extremely low numbers. (MPD, for example, has barely reported any hate-crimes to the FBI since 2012, and also routinely fails to transmit data on hate crimes to the Florida Attorney General’s office, as well.)
The department last year did not bother to respond to a message from New Times asking why those numbers were so low. For what it’s worth, Miami Beach did report seemingly accurate statistics — the city of more than 92,000 people noted 14 hate crimes last year.
Statewide, hate crimes allegedly jumped from 96 in 2016 to 145 in 2017 — a whopping 51 percent increase. But, given how poorly the state has previously tracked these incidents, it’s hard to tell whether more actually occurred, or if Florida cops just started doing a better job of reporting them. (While hate incidents have increased steadily since 2015, they are still lower than they were ten years ago. Florida saw nearly 350 hate incidents in 2004.) Some high-profile 2017 incidents clearly did not make the cut: Neither the City of Miami nor Miami-Dade County police departments, for example, appear to have reported the six firefighters dispatched for allegedly placing a noose on the photograph of a black coworker or the swastikas found spray-painted near the MacArthur Causeway along Biscayne Boulevard in August 2017.
The lazy local departments aren’t alone. Despite the 17 percent rise announced from 2016 to 2017, critics noted some of the most prominent and obvious hate-crimes that occurred in 2017, such as the Charlottesville neo-Nazi murder of Heather Heyer, the Portland train-stabbings, and the killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla — who was killed by a man who screamed “Get out of my country!” — did not even make the FBI’s list. Nationally, local police departments seem to do a poor job of both classifying hate crimes and reporting them to federal authorities.
Of course, anecdotally, both 2017 and 2018 have been wild and upsetting for hate-groups: Neo-Nazis and white-supremacists marched in the streets quite a lot, and Rajdeep Singh Jolly, the interim manager of the Sikh Coalition civil-rights group, published a Miami Herald op-ed in August 2017 castigating Florida law-enforcement agencies for failing to report hate-crimes properly.
“The Florida law enforcement community should pledge to give all hate-crime victims the dignity of recognition by reporting hate crimes,” Jolly wrote last year. “Florida lawmakers should give police agencies resources and incentives to do so. The biggest incentive of all is keeping our communities safe.”
In 2017, New Times and ProPublica looked into 169 hate-crime incidents reported across Florida in 2016. Though we were not able to independently verify each one, the number of reports suggests state agencies are still failing to catch tons of incidents — including one man who says he was beaten up on December 11, 2016 at a West Flagler gas station just for being gay.