20 November 2007

Selective Statistics, Hate Crimes and USA Today

A story from the 20 November edition of USA Today, headlined “FBI: Hate crimes escalate 8% in 2006,” is curiously selective in its reporting. What is quite interesting is the singling out of Muslims, homosexuals and Hispanics as groups experiencing “larger spikes in attacks” during 2006. This is done in the opening paragraph of the online article. The numbers, including those printed in the text of the article, make me question why these three groups were held up as examples.

For instance, the article reports: “Attacks on Muslims increased 22% to 156 last year. Attacks on Catholics increased by almost a third to 76. Almost seven in 10 were crimes against Jews, which were up 14% to 967.”

Based on those numbers, saying that Muslims experienced a “larger spikes in attacks” than Catholics or Jews is curious. “Almost a third” is larger than 22%. That would mean that Catholics experienced a greater percentage increase in crimes labeled as “hate crimes” than Muslims. On sheer numbers, Jews were the targets of “hate crimes” more than six times as often as Muslims. Why, again, were Muslims singled out in the opening paragraph?

The homosexual reference in the opening paragraph I thought was odd because I did not think that there would be another group to compare statistics with. I was wrong. According to the 2006 FBI report, there were 26 anti-heterosexual incidents logged during 2006. The way that the report sorts the data, there are five sexual preference-based categories, four of which involve homosexuality at some level. It is curious that the USA Today article does not mention this at all.

Finally, there is the reference to Hispanics. For the “Ethnic / National Origin” category that Hispanics fall into in the report, there is only an “other” category for comparison. The FBI report shows 576 “hate crime” incidents against Hispanics, a rise of 10.3% from 2005. To get any sort of comparison, one has to compare Hispanics with another category in the report. In the “Race” category, the FBI report shows 2,640 “hate crime” incidents against blacks and 890 “hate crime” incidents against whites. That’s an increase of .4% and 7.5% respectively. While Hispanics did experience an increase percentage-wise in incidents labeled as “hate crimes,” the number of incidences is dwarfed by the number reportedly experienced by blacks. Again, it is very curious why the USA Today article does not mention this at all.

The article did, however, take two paragraphs to mention the Jena incidents, particularly the noose hanging incident. That the noose hanging was not reported as not a “hate crime” only leads to a paragraph on how many noose hangings were investigated by the Justice Department (more than 40).

Obviously, there’s more to the USA Today story than the reader would be lead to believe from reading the first paragraph. Sadly, the reader has to go elsewhere to get more in-depth information – information that would not have required more column inches.

[Note: it seems that the AP - American Thinker blog here - has taken the same tack as USA Today with regard to the FBI report.]

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Civil Rights leaders have criticized the newly released FBI hate crime statistics, saying it grossly under reports the number of hate crimes. The FBI cites 7,722 hate crimes in 2006 while the Justice Department report, released earlier this month, reports am average of 190,000 hate crimes per year over a span of about five years. The FBI numbers are based only on reports from law enforcement agencies that bother to report hate crimes. The Justice Department numbers are based on the law enforcement reports plus numerous surveys.
The Justice Department’s “National Criminal Victimization Survey and Uniform Crime Reporting” study has some surprises. For example, it shows that whites and Hispanics are more likely to be victims of hate crimes than blacks: "Per capital rates of hate crime victimization varied little by race or ethnicity: about 0.9 per 1,000 whites, 0.7 percent blacks, and 0.9 percent Hispanics." According to the less comprehensive FBI statistics, blacks were more likely than whites to be victims of hate crime.

A second importance difference is that the Justice Department numbers show that whites (including Hispanics) make up only 43 percent of hate crime offenders, even though they make up nearly 80 percent of the population. It identifies 38.8 percent of hate crime offenders as black, even though blacks make up only about 12 percent of the population. By contrast, the FBI numbers identified 58.6 percent of hate crimes offenders as white and 20.6 percent of hate crime offenders as black.

Still, the FBI hate numbers, while less comprehensive that the Justice Department numbers, are illuminating because the 2006 hate crimes numbers can be compared with overall crime statistics for 2006, also posted on the FBI website.

There were three racially motivated murder cases during 2006. If we eliminated racially motivated murders, we could reduce the number of Americans murdered each year from 17,034 to 17,031 a year. That's a 0.02 percent (two tenths of one percent) drop.

There were four racially motivated forcible rapes during 2006. If we eliminated racially motivated forcible rapes, we could reduce the number of forcible rapes a year from 92,455 to 92,451. That's a 0.004 percent (four hundredths of one percent) drop.

There were 607 racially motivated aggravated assaults during 2006. If we eliminated racially motivated aggravated assaults, we could reduce the number of racially motivated aggravated assaults per year from
855,088 to 854,481. That's a 0.07 percent (seven tenths of one percent) drop.

It would be more effective to enact laws to attach harsher sentences to interracial crime, regardless of motivation. For example, 573 of the 3,709 whites murdered in 2006 were murdered by blacks, while 208 of the 3,304 blacks murdered during the same year were murdered by whites. Eliminating these interracial murders would have a significant statistical impact.

Bob M. said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for the information. You might want to check your reference to percentage amounts; .02% is actually 2 one-hundredths of a percent. Given the percentages at the end of your comment, it appears that eliminating "hate crimes" would do little to influence the larger picture of crime in the country. Of course, the flip side is that (if I remember correctly) because crime overall in the US is down, there is more focus on special categories of crime, or special motivators.

That being said, I've not bought into the "hate crime" theory. I may be right, I may be wrong, but it might be said that all crimes involve "hate" (of one of it's lesser siblings) in their commission - either toward the self or the "target".