Police departments are supposed to submit hate-crime data to the FBI every year. In 2016, Miami-Dade County Police — the largest force in the Southeast, 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 it, and he said it was likely inaccurate. He added that his department was conducting an audit because it had "been brought to [his] 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 had 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 last Friday. But it's unclear what the apparent issue might be — it's possible the department is keeping hate-crime lists it does not submit to the FBI. Or the cops might simply 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. The 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 data. City of Miami and Hialeah Police Departments reported zero hate crimes in 2016 and 2017, for example, while Miami Gardens and North Miami 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 about hate crimes to the Florida Attorney General's office.)
MDPD 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 reported 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 in light of how poorly the state has previously tracked these incidents, it's difficult to tell whether more actually occurred or if Florida cops simply began doing a better job of reporting them. (Though hate incidents have increased steadily since 2015, they are still lower than they were ten years ago. Florida reported 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, appears to have reported the six firefighters terminated for allegedly placing a noose on a photograph of a black co-worker or the swastikas found spray-painted near the MacArthur Causeway along Biscayne Boulevard in August 2017.
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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 slaying of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was shot 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.
Anecdotally, 2017 and 2018 have been wild and upsetting for hate groups: Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched in the streets quite often, and Rajdeep Singh Jolly, the interim manager of the civil rights group Sikh Coalition, wrote 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 verify each one independently, the number of reports suggests state agencies are still failing to catch tons of incidents — including one man who says he was beaten up December 11, 2016, at a West Flagler gas station simply for being gay.