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SPLC: Improving hate crime reporting and prosecution daunting but crucial task

We applaud Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ commitment to vigorously enforcing our nation’s hate crime laws.

Unfortunately, we think he’s likely to have his hands full.

As we have reported, the divisive rhetoric of last year’s presidential campaign has energized the radical right and emboldened white supremacists. A number of cities have already reported upticks in hate crimes this year.

We also appreciate General Sessions’ commitment to improving hate crime reporting because, the truth is, the reporting system is woefully inadequate.

Today’s report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics proves the point. It estimates that about 250,000 hate crimes occurred in 2015. Yet, the official FBI hate crime report for 2015 shows that law enforcement agencies from across the country reported about only 6,000 crimes that year.

To put this into perspective, England and Wales – which have a combined population one-fifth the size of the United States – had more than 60,000 reported hate offenses in about the same time period.

That’s 10 times as many offenses as the FBI recorded here for a country five times as large as England and Wales combined.

We urge General Sessions and the Justice Department to dramatically improve the process of reporting hate crimes and to vigorously push back against white supremacist activity in our country.