Reported hate crimes fell in Arizona; advocates skeptical of real gains

Jan 6, 2020, 4:35 AM

WASHINGTON – Reported hate crimes in Arizona fell to the lowest rate in five years in 2018, a drop that outpaced a slight drop nationally, according to the most recent data available from the FBI.

But advocates cautioned against celebrating too soon, noting that “reported” is a key element when it comes to hate crime data. Many such crimes go unreported due to distrust of law enforcement or ignorance on how to report a crime, said the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League of Arizona.

“One of the most important things to remember is that we’re talking about hate crimes that have been reported,” Carlos Galindo-Elvira said. “We don’t know what crimes happened that were not reported and, specifically, who they impacted.”

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program showed that 166 hate crimes were recorded in the state in 2018, down from 264 the year before. That’s the fewest since 2013, when 155 cases were reported in Arizona.

Hate crimes also fell nationally last year, but by a much smaller amount. The drop from 7,175 crimes in 2017 to 7,120 in 2018 was a 0.77% decline, compared to a 37% drop in the state.

The FBI defines 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.”

Race and ethnicity remained the most common motivation in Arizona, accounting for 57% of all hate crimes in the state last year and more than half in each of the last five years, according to the FBI. They were followed by sexual orientation and religion.

The majority of reported hate crimes occurred in Phoenix, where the FBI data show 112 such crimes were reported for the year, followed by Tucson with 18, and Glendale, Scottsdale and Yuma each reporting a handful.

Of the 17 Arizona cities that reported hate crimes in 2018 – accounting for just a fraction of police agencies in the state – 13 reported fewer than five such incidents, with seven cities reporting just one bias-motivated crime for the entire year.

The numbers can vary slightly, as a single incident with multiple motivations may be counted differently. Phoenix, for example, reported just 107 incidents last year, compared to the 112 the FBI cited in the city – a number the city had already matched through the first three quarters of 2019, according to the police department’s statistics.

A spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department said it places a high priority on awareness and reporting of hate crimes, while conceding that not all are likely reported.

“We don’t want it to happen, but if it’s something that’s happening, the community needs to report it so we can follow up on those matters,” Phoenix Detective Luis Samudio said.

He said the department has 12 outreach groups that target specific communities, focusing with them on hate crime education and awareness, and a three-person unit designated to investigate incidents.

Samudio said many individuals often do not report bias-motivated crimes because they do not believe they have been targets of hate.

“These things unfortunately do occur but we at the department are doing the best we can and investigating these matters,” he said.

Sgt. Lori Franklin, spokeswoman for the Yuma Police Department, said her community’s proximity to the border plays a role in its reported numbers.

She said the majority of hate crimes in Yuma are gang-on-gang incidents. With the “incredible” number of undocumented people coming over the border in recent years it has made for “two sides battling” in the community – those for and against increased immigration.

Yuma reported seven hate crimes in 2018, half the 14 recorded in 2017.

“I’m very happy with our numbers compared to what they could have been,” said Franklin. “I would hope it continues to go down.

“I would hope all crime continues to go down, but we know realistically that’s not going to happen,” she said.

While overall hate crimes were down, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that crimes involving violence nationally actually rose last year and that bias-motivated crimes against Latinos rose nearly 14 percent across the country. The center’s Heidi Beirich pointed toward President Donald Trump’s “incendiary – and often false – rhetoric about immigrants.”

“A president’s words have consequences, and this administration continues to normalize the bigotry that motivates hate crimes,” she said in a prepared statement.

Galindo-Elvira called hate crimes “message crimes” intended to reach far and wide.

“We know that we’re certainly in a politically charged environment where there are emboldened groups – extremists and white nationalists – that are promoting their ideology that is counter to a society that is diverse and appreciates diversity,” he said.

Despite the overall decline, Galindo-Elvira said the rate of hate crimes is still “alarming.”

“I would say that one hate crime is too many,” he said.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Cronkite News

A banner touts available units at the Proxy 333 Apartment Homes near downtown Phoenix on April 28, ...
Sara Edwards I Cronkite News

As metro Phoenix home prices rise, so does the number of people forced to rent

Rents in Maricopa County had been steadily climbing even before the start of the pandemic in March 2020. With home prices now soaring to record levels, more people are being forced to rent houses, condos and apartments, which adds more upward pressure on rents.
13 days ago
From left, U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar, state House Rep. Mark Finchem (Twitter Profile Photos...
Camila Pedrosa | Cronkite News

Appeal planned after dismissal of suit seeking to keep 3 GOP candidates off Arizona ballot

A voters’ advocacy group said it will appeal a judge’s decision to dismiss its lawsuit that sought to keep U.S. Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar and state Rep. Mark Finchem off Arizona ballots.
26 days ago
With its new Kornit Presto printer, FABRIC can create personalized prints on a 3-D rendering to red...
Payton Major | Cronkite News

Here’s how some Arizona businesses are making fashion more sustainable

Most sellers aren’t aware of the impact the products they sell have on the environment, but efforts are underway in Arizona to establish fashion that’s sustainable.
28 days ago
The San Pedro River, which flows north into Arizona from Mexico. (Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter ...
Alexia Stanbridge | Cronkite News

2 Arizona rivers make list of 10 most endangered, with Colorado at No. 1

Two Arizona rivers landed on an annual list of the top 10 “most endangered” rivers in the U.S. this week, including the drought-ravaged Colorado in the No. 1 spot.
29 days ago
Arizonans filed close to 8,000 complaints with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in ...
Camila Pedrosa I Cronkite News

Credit crunch: Complaints about credit reports jumped in 2021, feds say

The pandemic forced Arizonans to do a lot of things they might not have done before – like getting to know their credit reports better.
1 month ago
Mexican poppies and lupine bloom outside Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction on March 17, 2...
Samantha Chow I Cronkite News

Blankets of color harder to find during Arizona’s subpar wildflower season

Arizonans won’t have much luck finding many poppies this year. And some experts fear the future will have fewer Mexican and California poppies – as well as lupine, chicory, fiddlenecks and a host of other wildflowers – as the Southwest continues to heat up and dry out.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Christina O’Haver

Stroke month: Experts call attention to stroke prevention

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.

In Sonoran heat, prevent costly AC repairs with an annual tune-up

As winter has finally passed and the days are becoming warmer, now is a good time to be sure your AC unit is polished and ready to run.
Reported hate crimes fell in Arizona; advocates skeptical of real gains