It is no secret that hate crimes in the U.S. have spiked after this most recent election. And according to ProPublica, the U.S. isn't doing a great job of keeping track of those crimes. Now, CrisisMappers, a humanitarian information and data-sharing network, has partnered with Harvard, UCLA, and MIT to remedy the lack of information and data. The group has launched HarassMap.us, a new crowdsourcing platform which maps instances of hate crimes and harassment of minorities across the country. Additionally, the site maps "reports of minority communities being helped," according to their website.
Announced just days after the election, the program, which uses Esri geographic information software, has already mapped over 300 reports of harassment and attacks, and just over a dozen instances of help. The majority of incidents reported are occurring in and around major urban centers, with most taking place in New York City, though reports are coming in from smaller cities like Billings, Montana as well. According to the website, each report is reviewed by volunteers who make sure there are no duplicates in the database. The volunteers also attempt to verify each report. Those reports that are verified are posted along with a corroborating news story. Anyone can submit an incident report.
The FBI's numbers on hate crimes, which come out nearly a year after they are collected, show that there were 5,850 hate crime incidents in 2015. As ProPublica reports, the data shows a 67-percent increase in crimes against Muslims. However, these numbers don't tell the whole story. An FBI spokesperson told the nonprofit news organization that about 20 percent of law enforcement agencies do not participate in the data collection program. FBI director James Comey is quoted in the article admitting, “We need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crimes to fully understand what is happening in our communities and how to stop it."
The FBI report shows that of the 14,997 agencies that did participate, only 1,742 had actual reports of hate crimes. The reported numbers aside, there's no telling how many people simply do not report their experiences of racist harassment or violence for fear of retribution.
HarassMap.us comes at a time of particular racial and religious tension in the U.S., what with KKK-endorsed Donald Trump set to take office on Jan. 20 and his nomination of far-right and white nationalist figures to his cabinet.
Following the election, Trump appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes, and was asked by correspondent Lesley Stahl for comment on the reports of racist and homophobic harassment by his supporters. The president-elect responded by downplaying the number of incidents and saying, "I am so saddened to hear that. And I say, 'Stop it.' If it-- if it helps." No telling yet just how much the admonition from Trump, who said he was unaware of the rise in violence until Stahl told him, may have helped or hurt matters.
HarassMap.us is not the only hate crime crowdsourcing project in place right now. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently added a form to report hate incidents to their website. As of Nov. 15, the organization's #ReportHate form had collected 437 reports. HarassMap.us currently has fewer reports, but provides a visualization of how these crimes, or at least reports of these crimes, play out across the country.
Whether racist, xenophobic, or homophobic harassment and violence will increase or subside in the lead-up to Inauguration Day still remains to be seen. What's clear is that crowdsourcing platforms like HarassMap.us, rather than federal government tracking, could be the key to better quantifying hate crimes across the U.S.