TRI-STATE (WFIE) - Data on hate crimes can be unreliable.
We noticed big problems, specifically in Indiana.
14 News investigated and found hate crimes are happening, but the state doesn’t even have record of some of them.
Experts say having a hate crime law on the books could help.
Right now, Indiana is one of five states without a hate crimes law, but a new bill just passed the Senate.
It could clear the way for stricter sentencing.
You can think of a hate crime as harming or intimidating someone because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender ID.
“Obviously there is a lot of room for improvement," said Executive Director of the Evansville-Vanderburgh Human Relations Commission Diane Clements-Boyd. "Come on, one of five in the nation not have a hate crimes law? We can do better than that.”
Governor Eric Holcomb said in his State of the State address, businesses interested in Indiana care about this issue, but it’s not just about business.
"At heart, this has to do with people’s dignity and how we treat one another, said Gov. Holcomb. “Standing strong against targeted violence, motivated to instill fear against an entire group is the right thing to do.”
Our investigation found Indiana has a bigger problem with hate crimes than the numbers even show.
While Indiana has no hate crimes laws, it does require law enforcement agencies to count hate crimes and report them to the state.
We found most agencies don’t report at all.
Out of the 52 policing agencies in our viewing area alone, only four turned in reports last year.
That leaves 48 other town marshals, police departments, and sheriff’s offices which did not turn in data, according to Indiana State Police.
That includes data like a racial slur written on the door of historic Liberty Missionary Baptist Church in Evansville in 2016.
Evansville Police say they believe it was reported to the state, but it’s not reflected in the numbers released by the state.
“If there are things that need to be documented and we’re not documenting them, we don’t have an excuse for that,” said Sgt. Jason Cullum with Evansville Police. “That should be done properly.”
“The possibility of overlooking something like that is going to decrease dramatically because you’re going to look at that and go, it’s an enhanced offense,” said Sgt. Cullum.
Support for Hate Crimes legislation has gained traction each year since 2015 when it was first introduced.
This session a version of the hate crimes bill is now headed to the full Senate. It must also pass the full House before it could make its way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.