Improving Hate Crime Data Quality
August 14, 2009
DCJS participates in the national collection of hate crime data, and regularly submits incident data to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. Information collected includes number of victims, number of offenders, type of bias motivation, type of crime, the crime location, and the type of victim (individual or property). In addition to the data submitted to the FBI, DCJS collects demographic data on both victims and offenders which provide New York with even more information on hate crime. The Hate Crime Incident reporting forms can be accessed here; DCJS also collects information on hate crime arrests and dispositions pursuant to a statutory requirement that is unique to New York State. Given the critical need to have accurate information on hate crimes, DCJS conducted a comprehensive validation of hate crime data submitted for 2008. Police agencies were provided with case specific documentation of any hate crime incidents or arrests that had been reported or transmitted to DCJS and were asked to verify the information.
Underreporting Hate Crime Incident Data
This comprehensive effort to validate 2008 data uncovered three causes of underreporting of hate crime incidents.
- Identifying a Hate Crime. To report a crime or charge an arrest, police agencies must document the elements of a crime. Hate crime is classified based on what motivated the crime, in addition to the elements of the crime. If the investigating officer does not identify a bias motivation, or does not reflect a bias motivation on the official incident report, the incident will not be reported to DCJS as a hate crime. To address this issue, DCJS has developed a model hate crime policy that will be presented to the New York State Municipal Police Training Council in September 2009. Once approved, the model policy, which includes protocols on identifying and reporting hate crimes, will be shared with police departments across the state, which will facilitate more complete reporting.
- Hate Crimes Not Reported to the Police. Not all hate crimes are reported to the police, and some individuals or groups may be more likely to report crimes than others. Certain groups, such as undocumented foreign born individuals, may be less likely to report these crimes.
- Hate Crime Reports Not Submitted. As a result of the validation process, departments identified 112 additional hate crime incidents from 2008 that had not been reported to DCJS. These incidents had in fact been identified by the departments at the time of the incident, but incident forms had not been submitted to DCJS. Through the validation process, DCJS worked with police agencies to stress the importance of submitting hate crime reports, reducing the likelihood of underreporting in the future.
Hate Crime Incident Reporting Improvement Plan
DCJS recently implemented new hate crime incident reporting protocols that will improve the quality of hate crime data in the future.
Improved Hate Crime Incident Reporting Form. DCJS has revised the New York State instructions for reporting hate crime incidents to more accurately capture information on each incident. The new form will ensure more meaningful information is captured on the victim and location of the reported offense, and that data sent to the FBI is more accurate.
- Comprehensive Follow-up When Reports are Not Submitted. DCJS crime reporting staff will now follow up with all reporting agencies to ensure that a hate crime report is submitted each month. When agencies have no hate crimes to report, they will be asked to complete a form and indicate “Nothing to Report.” This will ensure that agencies don’t neglect to submit hate crime reports, even if incidents are reported infrequently.
- Ongoing Data Quality Review. DCJS crime reporting staff are now reviewing every hate crime incident report upon receipt. Forms are reviewed for accuracy, and police agencies are contacted to confirm or correct any information that is not clear or not entered properly. Staff are also contacting agencies when forms are incomplete.
Errors in Hate Crime Arrest Record Transmission
Police agencies do not report arrest information on the hate crime incident report forms. Rather, this information is derived from the Computerized Criminal History (CCH) Repository. When an arrest is made for a hate crime, the arrest charge(s) are transmitted to DCJS along with the arrestee’s fingerprints. A comprehensive review of arrest data uncovered a technical problem that significantly impacted the quality of hate crime arrest information available for analysis. A large number of hate crime arrest charges received by DCJS were transmitted in error because of local police agency technology issues associated with how arrest charges are coded and transmitted to DCJS. These errors appear to be related to data entry screen design in local police Records Management Systems. When selecting a charge from the data entry screen, it appears that in some systems the hate crime version of the charge can easily be entered in error. As a result of the validation, more than 1,000 hate crime arrests transmitted in error were identified by the submitting agencies and removed from the analysis. The validation also corrected a number of arrest records that did not show a hate crime charge, but the individual was, in fact, charged with a hate crime. The 159 arrests confirmed by law enforcement as arrests for hate crime incidents were then analyzed to determine dispositions. Local police agencies should ensure that arrest transmissions are coded properly so that hate crime arrests and disposition data can be analyzed and reported accurately.