Hate crimes low in Alaska but many cases go unreported

A panel of Anchorage community members speak about their experiences with discrimination, bias, and hate crimes.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - In 2017, just over 7,000 hate crimes and incidents were reported to the FBI, but only 4 of them came from Alaska. Saturday the Department of Justice held a forum at the Loussac Library to discuss hate crimes and bias-related incidents. As it was pointed out at the forum, Alaska does appear to have lower rates of hate crimes, as many of those incidents go unreported.

“Understand that we don't have all law enforcement agencies reporting that information to the FBI, and we also don't have all those incidents being reported to law enforcement,” said FBI Anchorage Field Office Assistant Special Agent Adam Pierce. “Our data is only as good as the information we have."

Research shows these types of crimes are overwhelmingly under-reported, with some victims feeling it will get them nowhere.

“What they would let me know is, 'well, we don't wanna report that because in the past we reported and it never was given in, or it was never recorded." Said Lusiana Tuga Hansen, who helped found the Polynesian Association of Alaska.

Others simply don't know how.

“If they are assaulted, or harassed, they may not know the best means of seeking justice for those incidents." Said Djamilla Chettfour, a member of the Islamic Community Center of Alaska.

Experts say part of this comes from confusion on the difference between a hate crime and incident.

“A hate crime would have an underlying criminal element, whether that is a murder, arson, assault, any criminal element that is motivated by bias." Pierce said.

And while Alaska is low on hate crimes, UAA Professor of Psychology Dr. EJR David says discrimination is still there.

“About 64% of African Americans, in Anchorage, experience racism while shopping,” David said. “70% experience racism at work, and 64% experience racism while shopping, and about 25% -- that's one in four, experienced racism at school, and experienced racism from the police."

NAACP Anchorage President Kevin Mcgee said the best way forward is as a unified community.

“We all work in this together, and it's best we work together to fulfill the best opportunities we can find for everyone, and not show any forms of discrimination regardless of race, color, creed, sexual orientation, or gender." McGee said.

Alaska's weakest link for biased crime is towards women. Anchorage District Attorney John Novak said the state continues to lead the country in violence and homicide towards women.

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