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Documenting Hate: Star-Telegram launches collaboration with ProPublica

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The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has joined ProPublica’s collaborative reporting project, Documenting Hate, to create a database of hate crimes and bias incidents in the United States.

Since the presidential election in November 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center, among other national civil rights organizations, has recorded an uptick in bias incidents and hate crimes through its own study. While the data cannot determine a relationship to the election, it does show that the national statistics on hate crimes are unreliable.

The Hate Crime Statistics Act from 1990 requires the FBI to collect data on hate crimes but local law enforcement agencies are not required to report such incidents back to the FBI. Compliance with the FBI varies state to state. Although a majority of jurisdictions participate in this data collection program, nearly 90 percent said they had no hate crimes in 2016, according to ProPublica.

The FBI recorded over 6,000 hate crimes nationwide in 2016 but a study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that there are as many as 250,000 in a given year.

So while the 2016 American Community Survey estimates that Texas' population is nearly 27 million, there were 178 hate crimes in the entire state in 2016. Fort Worth reported 20 incidents in 2016, whereas Tarrant County reported zero.

What is a hate crime?

The FBI defines 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, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” It also specifies that hate itself is not a crime and that the FBI is "mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties."

A bias incident is an offense that is motivated by an offender's bias but may not rise to the level of a crime.

The discrepancies in the data lie, partly, in the fact that victims or witnesses of such incidents don't report them, and when they do, law enforcement agents might not classify the incident as a hate crime.

What can you do?

On May 1, the City of Fort Worth's Race and Culture Task Force said in its presentation to the city council that "mutual understanding, respect and harmonious relations among residents of diverse backgrounds are essential to Fort Worth's long-term social and economic vitality."

With citizen tips, law enforcement statistics, news reports, social media and nonprofit organizations, the Documenting Hate project aims to create the most accurate database of hate crimes and bias incidents in the nation. The database is accessible to journalists and national civil rights groups so they can get a better understanding of hate incidents.

By filling out the form below, you can tell us about your experience of a hate crime or bias incident in Fort Worth or Tarrant County.

Please note that your name and contact information will not be shared with anyone outside the Documenting Hate coalition without your permission.

We are not law enforcement and will not report this information to the police. The Southern Poverty Law Center recommends you do so directly if you are a victim of a crime.

Si has sido víctima de odio, cuenta aquí tu historia.

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Hanaa’ Tameez: 817-390-7991, @HTameez

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