Statistics produced by the FBI which show Arizona as the top city for hate crimes are misleading, because the high numbers are due to more vigorous reporting, a Phoenix Police Department official said.
“I think the data is deceptive,” Jonathan Howard, sergeant in the Public Affairs Bureau at the department said. “Here in Phoenix, we aggressively identify and report bias crime related incidents. In fact, we are one of the few departments in the country that has full time, dedicated bias crime detectives…Any apparent rise in numbers is likely more closely related to effective reporting and the confidence those in our community have in their Phoenix police.”
Kevin Ham, head of Phoenix police’s Bias Crimes Unit, said that the department works together with advisory boards representing all different races and groups of people within the community. “The Phoenix Police Department currently maintains 12 Chief’s Advisory Boards,” Ham said. “These boards are comprised of community members who we meet with on a regular basis. Our Community Response Unit has detectives assigned to these boards who serve as liaisons to the communities. The meetings include a variety of topics, some of which involve educational forums.”
According to the Phoenix police website, these 12 advisory boards represent the following communities: African-American, Arab, Asian, Cross-Disability, Faith Based, Hispanic, Jewish, LGBT, Muslim, Native American, Refugee, and Sikh. The FBI hate crime statistics showed that each of the listed communities is affected by hate crimes.
According to the FBI statistics report for 2015, which was the most recent year data was available, hate crimes are rising. The report showed a nationwide 7 percent increase in hate crimes from 2014 to 2015. Ham said the most important way to fight these crimes is to report them accurately and stay involved. “We maintain a staff of full time dedicated detectives to investigate bias crimes,” Ham said. “This unit is the only bias crimes unit in the state of Arizona. We understand the impact of a bias crime, to both the victim and the community.”
Although Phoenix police works with the community to alleviate these kinds of crimes, they do still occur regularly. Arizona law also works to try these crimes more effectively. Chris Doran, attorney at Dumond Law, said that while hate crimes are not listed as a standalone criminal violation, they are tried more vigorously in the state.
“ARS 13-701 provides an option for enhanced sentencing when sufficient evidence exists that a defendant committed a ‘hate crime,’ or a felony crime while motivated by either: bias towards the victim’s identity in a group listed in ARS 41-1750, or the defendant’s perception of a victim’s identity in a group listed in ARS 41-1750,” Doran said.
Doran said, “The FBI has defined 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.’” Doran said that the FBI has defined hate crime as it applies to federal laws, and although each state tries the crimes differently, this definition does not vary.