How Many Hate Crimes Have Happened In 2015? It's Hard To Say — And That's The Problem

As the day comes to a close, officials declared a fire reported Thursday morning at a Charlotte, North Carolina church to be arson. The fire at Briar Road Creek Baptist Church destroyed the summer camp and classroom education area in the church and caused the ceiling to collapse, according to USA Today. More than 75 firefighters were on the scene to control the fire in under an hour, but the damage still totals up to a quarter of a million dollars, according to ABC News. And in the wake of suspected hate crime charges at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, people have been asking one big question: Was this a hate crime? Which brings us to an even bigger question: How many hate crimes have happened in 2015?

Well, the answer might not be as easy as you would like. This became painfully obvious in February when three young Muslims were shot and killed by their neighbor Craig Hicks in their Chapel Hill, North Carolina home. It was clear to the family and friends of the victims that this crime was directly linked to their religion — in other words, it was a hate crime. But, the Washington Post reported, it's frustratingly difficult to prove a hate crime, especially when marginalized groups, such as those of the Muslim faith, are the targets. With stereotypes in place against these groups, the more difficult it becomes for officials, from police to judges and juries, to made empathetic decisions.

A 2007 report in the ABA Journal said hate crimes are often not reported and "are rarely prosecuted." The FBI's most recent statistics date only to 2013, during which there were 5,928 hate crimes. Fifty-one of those reported hate crimes took place in South Carolina.

According to the Washington Post, those numbers were a vast understatement of the gravity of hate crime problems in the United States. A 2013 comprehensive analysis released by the U.S. Department of Justice said a startling 260,000 people are victimized by hate crimes each year. Why the difference? The DOJ stated that two out of every three hate crimes go unreported because victims often believe, from past experience, that authorities will not help based on their racial or religious biases.

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So, with the Chapel Hill and Charleston hate crimes as unfortunate standout crimes this year, there really is no way to prove how many hate crimes have gone unreported and will fail to be prosecuted in 2015. Not that someone doesn't say this every day, but here it is again: Let's be better society.

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