I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: Hate crimes going unreported

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Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019
(News 12 at 6 O’Clock / NBC 26 at 7)

RICHMOND COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A recent FBI report shows the number of hate crime is rising. But, national experts say their data doesn't tell the whole story.

Out of the 18,000 law enforcement agencies, 2,000 didn't submit anything to the FBI, and the majority of the ones that did report zero.

Our I-Team found only two out of dozens of local agencies have reported hate crimes happening in their communities.
 
All are welcome who walk through the doors of Church of our Redeemer.

"We are open to everyone," Pastor Marc Trimm said. But, not everyone is open to the lifestyle of his congregation.

"Oh, it was most definitely a hate crime," he said In 2015, someone sprayed painted a message of hate across the front of church. "There are people out there that at are capable of doing things to remind us how much we are disliked by some."

The FBI classifies criminal acts against a person or property motivated by bias against sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, gender and gender identity as hate crimes. But, the incident at the church was never reported as one.

"It was simply labeled as vandalism against the church."
 
11% of law enforcement agencies across the country do not report hate crimes to the FBI. The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is one. "It did surprise me that they don't report the hate crimes that transpire," Pastor Trimm said. The agency did report up until four years ago. However, reporting isn't required by.
 
"I’ve heard a lot of different reasons of why they don't. I’ve heard everything from ‘we don't have hate crime here, there's no reason to report something that's not happening’," Cynthia Deitle said. She is with the Matthew Shepard Foundation Programs and a former FBI agent.
 
It’s hard to tell what's happening even with the agencies that do report. Nearly 90% of them entered zero in 2017. The Bamberg County Sheriff's Office and Denmark Police Department are the only two agencies in our area to report hate crimes.
 
"They wrote the report they did what they could. I don’t blame the officer or Richmond County they can only do what the law allows them to."
 
45 states have hate crime laws. Georgia and South Carolina are two of five that do not.
 
"In South Carolina, after Dylan Roof, I’m shocked that they're not passing a hate crime law."
 
Roof shot and killed nine members of an African-American member church in 2015. He was convicted in federal court on 33 charges, including hate crimes. He was also prosecuted in South Carolina, but not for hate crimes because again there is no law.

"So that was the big argument in South Carolina. He was prosecuted. The state prosecuted him, so what more do you want us to do? We prosecuted him for several counts of murder. We got it.”
 
"It matters to that African-American population to know why they were targeted. They weren't targeted for robbery. He didn't steal anything. He went in there purposefully to harm African-Americans. It matters to that community that that motive be exposed and crushed all at the same time."
 
It also matters to Pastor Marc Trimm.
 
"It’s just sad every time we walk in front of our building we are reminded."