The article “The Dark Figure of Hate Crime Underreporting” by Frank S. Pezzella, Mathew D. Fetzer, and Tyler Keller presented two hypotheses to explain hate crime underreporting. (1) bias crime victims, relative to non bias crime victims, are less likely to report their victimization to police; (2) misperceptions of police legitimacy by groups with strained relations with police who are also at risk for hate victimization explain declinations to report(Pezzella, Fetzer, & Keller, 2019). Results from the study conducted indicated a significant difference in reporting habits between hate and ordinary crime victims(Pezzella, Fetzer, & Keller, 2019). The initial hypotheses was supported by the results, indicating bias victims are less likely to report their victimization compared to non bias crime victims. The study also found that misperceptions of police legitimacy by crime victims greatly influenced their propensity to report the hate crime to the to the police.
In regard to hate crime victims underreporting, it was very interesting to see the reasons behind the lack of victimization reporting to the police. In the descriptive analysis conducted in the study, victims perceived police apathy(16.9%) are not competent(7.5%) or was biased(5%) as explanation behind decision to not report their victimization to police(Pezzella, Fetzer, & Keller, 2019). The analyses also indicated that about 30% of hate crime victim nonreporting correlates to the perceived legitimacy or ability to facilitate procedural justice(Pezzella, Fetzer, & Keller, 2019). Having seen the analyses conducted in the study and its end results I believe that one of the main reasons victims typically don’t report hate crimes is due to their worry of having the police not believing them as in many cases victims have very little confidence that authorities will bring the perpetrators to justice. In the case of homosexual victims they might decline to report hate crimes to police because of fear of reprisals or a belief that they will be forced “out of the closet”. On the other hand immigrant hate crime victims might not be proficient in English or could be undocumented aliens who fear that any contact with police could increase their risk of deportation. In other cases, immigrants may come from cultures which mistrust law enforcement agencies, or believe that victims of bias motivated crime are somehow stigmatized. In the end I feel like much of the reason as to why victims of hate crime don’t report their victimization to authorities is due to fear of humiliation, misperceptions or even a distrust in the police.
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In order to improve hate crime reporting, misperceptions and perceived legitimacy towards law enforcement need to be addressed. Police officers are in many cases unequipped to identify a hate crime, due to their relative infrequency and the ambiguity surrounding a crime’s motivation which is why training needs to be provided for law enforcement agencies as a way to better provide them with the necessary skills to deal with hate crime reports. As discussed in the article by providing clarity and transparency of hate crime policies and enforcement practices towards law enforcement will greatly improve police classification of hate crimes and hence, increase victims hate crime reporting(Pezzella, Fetzer, & Keller, 2019). In the end the best way to improve hate crime reporting is by establishing better communication and trust between law enforcement and the community. People need to be able to trust and know that the authorities will serve justice for the crime.
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