DENVER — Hate crimes reported to Colorado law enforcement hit a record high in 2020, a recent FBI report found.
The data are under the FBI's annual hate crime report, which found a total of 281 reported hate crimes last year in Colorado.
That's much higher than the 225 reports filed in 2019, according to the FBI's Crime Data Explorer. The last time that the reported hate crime count was this high was in 1992, when 261 were reported, the data show.
It's important to note that not all law enforcement agencies reported hate crime data. The FBI statistics for Colorado are based on data received from 227 of 246 law enforcement agencies in 2020.
"Hate crimes tear at the very fabric of our communities by sowing mistrust and inspiring additional hate," said Matthew T. Kirsch, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, in a statement. "These crimes also violate our Constitution’s guarantees of equality and freedom for all.
"The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work alongside the FBI, state and local law enforcement agencies, and community partners to improve hate crime reporting, develop effective training for hate crime investigations, and to vigorously prosecute criminal acts motivated by hate," Kirsch said.
The data are broken down by motivation for hate crimes, which can be seen below: 182 crimes were based on race and ethnicity.
"Hate crimes are extremely important for law enforcement to record because any crime against an individual really affects their entire community," said Scott Levin, mountain state region director for the Anti-Defamation League.
Levin added that he believes the data are still underreported because not all hate crimes are reported to law enforcement.
"There's a tremendous amount of underreporting that takes place," he said. "That underreporting comes from a lot of different reasons. But among them is the fact that people don't always feel comfortable reporting to law enforcement."
The FBI report notes that in 2020 in Colorado, African-American and Black communities had the most reports of hate crimes.
Levin said that many communities are experiencing their own challenges with hate crime.
"It's not targeted against the individual because the criminal that does it hates that person or wants to rob that person because they want to send a message to people who look like that person," Levin said.
"... I think words matter," he said. "When people blame Asian-Americans for coronavirus, that is because of the language some people are using when people are upset because they don't like that Black Lives Matter or other organizations are standing up against injustices that have long suffered, that that somehow is something to blame Black people for and to attack them for. That matters."
Levin is part of the Hate Free Colorado coalition, which advocates for legislative measures making it mandatory that state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies that receive federal funding must participate in the FBI’s Hate Crimes Statistics data collection efforts.
"We have to remember that data drives policy," Levin said. "And if we don't collect these numbers, if we can't measure it, there's absolutely no way we're going to be able to manage it."
According to the Denver Police Department's (DPD) bias-motivated hate crime statistics, there were 57 reported hate crimes in 2018, 80 in 2019 and 75 in 2020.
A spokesperson said that DPD has a special bias-motivated crime unit that investigates hate crimes. The unit performs outreach work to businesses and communities affected by bias-motivated crimes to provide support, explain options for reporting crime, develop trust and work to overcome any potential cultural or language barriers to reporting crimes.
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