NBC15 Investigates: Hate crimes, incidents under-reported

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - NBC15 Investigates' Hannah Anderson sat down with Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul and Temple Beth El Rabbi Jonathan Biatch. Both agreed: hate crimes and hate incidents are under-reported in Wisconsin.

According to the Anti Defamation League, a hate crime involves an underlying crime (murder, arson, vandalism, etc.) with hateful intent, meaning that a person is targeted because of an immutable characteristic such as their race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, national origin, ability/disability, etc.

A hate incident is a broader term that is not necessarily a crime. For example, it could be hateful speech, which is constitutionally protected, but still problematic because it targets the above listed groups.

On the shelves in Rabbi Biatch's office are books that preserve details of hate in history.

"This is from the memorial museum in Washington D.C.," Biatch said. "They show mass demonstrations, mass meetings, where anti-semitic messages were shared."

Biatch said hate toward the Jewish community, like in the books, still lingers in some people in Wisconsin. Last summer: the synagogue received five threatening phone calls.

"They used imagery of the Holocaust," Biatch said. "They complained about the fact that the holocaust wasn't complete because not all of the Jews were killed. They made fun of the pronunciation of our names and the pronunciation of the synagogues name. "

The calls were technically a "hate incident." Not every hateful or biased incident rises to the level of a hate crime. Biatch said they're working with law enforcement on what their options are to move forward.

"People are tired of reporting and having nothing done and having incidents be repeated," Biatch said.

"The number of hate crimes reported is pretty low, and I think this is a crime that's probably under reported," Kaul said.

The Wisconsin Attorney General said hate crimes are unacceptable in the state.

"Any hate crime, is one more than we should have," Kaul said.

In Wisconsin, state agencies are required to report hate crimes to the Department of Justice. The DOJ then, as required, reports its numbers to the federal government.

"Everybody needs to be involved in hate reduction," Biatch said.

Rabbi Biatch said nothing is more important than education and information, something also found in the books on his shelves.

"We all live together. We can have different political views, and we can deal with these issues in different ways, but to reach out and attack an ethnic group or national group because of prejudices, is just wrong. That's just not a value of the United States participates in."

According to the Wisconsin DOJ, the following breaks down hate offenses:

2017: 50 Offenses
2016: 47 Offenses
2015: 52 Offenses
2014: 70 Offenses

For example, one incident that involves three people being assaulted due to a racial bias would be a count of 1 incident on the FBI’s report, but a count of 3 assault offenses on DOJ’s data.

According to the FBI data for each year, in Wisconsin, the following breaks down incidents per jurisdiction and per bias motivation:

2017: 46 incidents, 2 in Madison (1- religion, 1- sexual orientation), 1 in Rock County (sexual orientation), 1 in Columbia County (religion)
2016: 34 incidents, 15 in Madison (8- race/ethnicity/ancestry, 7- religion), 1 in Stoughton (race/ethnicity/ancestry)
2015: 43 incidents, 1 in Janesville (race/ethnicity/ancestry), 8 in Madison (4- race/ethnicity/ancestry, 3- religion, 1- sexual orientation), 1 in Muscoda (gender), 2 in Rock County (2- Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry)
2014: 51 incidents, 2 in Janesville (2- Race), 10 in Madison (3- race, 1- religion, 4- sexual orientation, 2- ethnicity), 1 in Columbia County (Disability)

MONDAY on NBC15 News at 10, NBC15's national investigative team looks at crimes not counted – and who’s not submitting their numbers… including the very agency reporting the information.

InvestigateTV is Gray Television's national investigative team and produces reports for our local stations, including this one. InvestigateTV is also a channel on Roku and Amazon Fire TV that focuses on in-depth reporting from our company and news partners. For more information on the team or to add the channel to your device, log on to www.InvestigateTV.com.