Mississippi Hate Crimes Increase Even As Counties Underreport Stats

Nationwide, hate crimes remained about the same, going from 6,604 in 2009 to 6,628 in 2010, according to the FBI. But activists say the real number is even higher.

By Jorge Rivas Nov 29, 2011

A recently released FBI report details the fact that there’s been a spike in Mississippi hate crimes over the past year. But activists are concerned that the numbers may in fact be twice as high than what’s officially on record.

There were 11 reported hate crimes in the state last year, up from two in 2009. Of the 63 participating agencies in Mississippi, Gulfport was the only one to report a hate crime in 2010, according to Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger. More than two-thirds of Mississippi’s counties failed to file a report with the Justice Department.

Nationwide, hate crimes remained about the same, going from 6,604 in 2009 to 6,628 in 2010, according to the FBI.

But Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, tells the Clarion Ledger that he believes the total number of hate crimes is much higher. "There have been two major Justice Department studies and the upshot is the real level is about 200,000 hate crimes a year."

"More than half of hate crimes are never reported," Potok went on to say.

Nsombi Lambright, executive director for the Mississippi chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Ledger that she also believes the number of hate crimes in Mississippi is much higher than the FBI report suggests.

Lambright told the Ledger her office regularly gets calls from hate crimes victims who sometimes won’t report crimes because they are scared of retaliation. "You also have counties that are not reporting the incidents," Lambright said.

Earlier this year a hate crime in Jackson, Mississippi made national headlines because it was captured by surveillance cameras. Prosecutors believe the June 26 killing of James Craig Anderson was a hate crime. Anderson, who’s African-American, was beaten before being run over with a pickup truck. The man who allegedly ran over Anderson repeatedly yelled racial epithets, including "White Power!" according to witnesses.

Deryl Dedmon Jr., 19, is accused of being the driver who ran over Anderson. His trial begins January 9, and if convicted, he could receive a death sentence or life without parole.

Of the hate crimes reported nationally to the FBI, nearly half were motivated by race. Sexual orientation made up 19 percent of the crimes, and nearly 13 related to ethnicity or national origin.

Latinos and Muslims have seen the largest spike in numbers of hate crimes. Over the past year, anti-Latino violence also rose 11 percent, according to the FBI.

Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok wrote about hate crimes and what he believe is fueling the increase in attacks against Muslims for the Huffington Post: "Anti-Muslim hate crimes soared by an astounding 50% last year, skyrocketing over 2009 levels in a year marked by the vicious rhetoric of Islam-bashing politicians and activists, especially over the so-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ in New York City."

(h/t to Rod 2.0)