We’ve learned that, under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act (H.C.S.A.) of 1990, the attorney general is required to collect data on hate crimes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation publishes annual hate crime statistics based on data submitted from state and local law enforcement. In almost every state, law enforcement agencies submit hate crime data to the state government, which then forwards the data to the F.B.I. All of this is done using a standardized reporting system known as the Uniform Crime Reporting (U.C.R.) program, which allows for better analysis across jurisdictions on a national level. To get the best data possible, the F.B.I. provides law enforcement agencies with instructions and guidelines for reporting crimes, including hate crime, through the U.C.R.
Additionally, many states require law enforcement agencies to submit data on hate crimes within their jurisdictions. This is the case in our respective states of Oklahoma and Virginia, and yet the murders of Khalid and Heather were not reported in the F.B.I.’s hate crime statistics. Despite the U.C.R.’s standardized format, the reporting system is complex, and we are still trying to get an answer for exactly how and why the omissions happened.
But we know two things for sure. First, under federal guidelines and the relevant state laws, the murders should have clearly been reported as hate crimes through the U.C.R. If such overt acts of bigoted violence aren’t reportable as hate crimes, it’s hard to imagine what would be.
This leads to the second thing we know for sure: These omissions are not the exception, but rather dramatic examples of the chronic underreporting of hate crime in this country. Experts have told us the great majority of hate crimes goes unreported — missing entirely from the data — just like the murders of Khalid and Heather.
While nothing can fill the gaping holes left in our lives, the discovery that Khalid and Heather’s murders were missing from the official data has prompted action among lawmakers to address the well-documented problem of underreporting. In June, the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act was introduced in both houses of Congress. It is bipartisan legislation that would improve the accuracy of federal hate crime statistics while providing state and local authorities with additional resources to prevent, address and respond to hate crime.
We, along with Democrats and Republicans in Congress, are deeply concerned about the increase in hate crime and the accuracy of federal hate crime statistics. A doctor cannot address a disease without an accurate picture of the symptoms and a diagnosis. Accurate data on hate crime informs that diagnosis and sets policy. We need it today more than ever.
We did not seek to become advocates or experts on hate crimes. For both of us, tragic incidents on Aug. 12 changed that forever. Today, by advocating for passage of the Khalid Jabara-Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, we are working so that no family has to bear the loss of their child and the realization that a tragic murder was not counted. Congress can join us in this fight against hate by passing this important legislation.