SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – New numbers from the FBI show more hate crimes have occurred in Utah than other states with histories of hate crimes.
As the issue of hate crimes in America deepens with hate crimes seen here in Utah – most recently the violent assault of a gay man from Delta – the annual report by the FBI showed more hate crimes occurred in the Beehive state than other parts of the country.
“Frankly, Utah doesn’t fight hate crimes very efficiently, we’re not very good at stopping hate crimes,” said Sen. Jim Dabakis (D).
Over 15,000 agencies surveying over 290 million people reported to the Bureau’s Crime Reporting Program. The most recent reporting year, 2013, showed 75 crimes were reported in Utah – 47 of those were racially based. Those numbers were much higher compared to a state like South Carolina who reported 51 hate crimes with only 33 of them being racially biased. But, some officials say we can’t rely on the numbers to paint an appropriate picture.
“If definitions vary, you’re going to have different numbers. It’s apples and oranges. You can’t compare state-by-state if they don’t have the same laws and same definitions,” said Gayle Ruzicka, President of the Utah Eagle Forum.
Unlike South Carolina, Utah does have a hate crimes law on the books, but even with legislation some lawmakers feel it doesn’t do enough.
“There has never been a hate crime conviction in the state of Utah under the statute. It is a useless statute, it’s time we toughened it up,” added Dabakis.
The data also showed these crimes occurred throughout 27 cities in Utah with most of these crimes happening in large metropolitan areas like Salt Lake City and Bountiful, than the smaller, rural communities.
Still, these numbers also raise more questions as to how to define a hate crime.
“Based on crimes committed, how many of those are classified as hate crimes and what is the criteria under Utah’s law to call something a hate crime?” said Ruzicka.