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Assessing the Validity of Hate Crime Reporting: An Analysis of NIBRS Data

James J. Nolan, Erica Turley, & Jake Stump

The study found that hate crimes that occurred in situations in which bias was a motivating factor (Group A hate crimes) were undercounted in West Virginia’s incident-based reporting system by approximately 67.4 percent, and that crimes in the general incident category might be undercounted by 11.3 percent. The findings also indicate that due to the large number of cases from the Group A and Other Group A categories that were reclassified as Unfounded, an additional 498 unfounded cases may exist in the population. This study by the West Virginia Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center examined the degree to which classification errors occurred in hate crime reporting in the State’s incident-based reporting system. Data for the report were obtained from a systematic review of 1,308 hate crime incident reports from 2 city and 2 county law enforcement agencies in the State. The reports were examined to the determine the degree to which they were correctly classified across six distinct categories of offenses: Group A offenses, Group A Hate Crimes, Other Group A offenses, Other Group A Hate Crimes, Group B arrests, and General Incidents. Additional discussion is included on the impact of classification error on the statistical accuracy of crime reports, and officer explanations for classification errors.