ALBUQUERQUE, NM – In April 2010, Paul Beebe, Jesse Sanford and William Hatch were accused of abducting a Navajo man with intellectual disabilities in Farmington, writing ant-gay slurs on the man, branding him with a wire hanger and shaving a swastika on his head .
The three were the first in the country to be charged with violating the Hate Crime Prevention Act by Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr.
More than a decade later, the FBI worries that hate crimes are not being reported in New Mexico and is trying to better document incidents across the state as federal agencies focus on civil rights as one of their top priorities.
Raul Bujanda, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque office, said the agency was “close to the heart” and believed it could collect better data.
The FBI defines hate crimes as “an offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias towards a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity”.
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Bujanda said 25 hate crimes were reported in New Mexico in 2018. In 2019 the number jumped to 50.Data for 2020 was not available.
“Unfortunately, there have been many cases in recent years that have led us to see what is going on in America?” He said.
Bujanda said he has seen an increase in hate-based threats that are “generally more violent,” and believes the numbers are much higher based on what is seen across the country.
“We don’t have a lot of faith in the numbers. For the most part, we felt that hate crimes were underreported, ”he said. “How do you quantify hate crimes? … It’s all really based on what people tell us and how it’s reported to us. “
To this end, the FBI is launching a public awareness campaign about hate crimes and how to report them to the FBI, while also planning to train local and state law enforcement agencies to better document such crimes.
In recent years, the office has switched its crime data reporting system from the Uniform Crime Reporting model to the more detailed National Incident-Based Reporting System, which specifies hate crimes in ways the UCR did not.
Although it is voluntary for local and state law enforcement agencies to provide crime data, Bujanda believes NIBRS will provide a clearer picture of hate crimes in the state.
Bujanda said they plan to begin training, either in person or virtually, for local and state law enforcement agencies on “What is a hate crime” in hopes of getting better data through these partnerships.
On the community side, the FBI is meeting with civic leaders and holding events to get the word out. You recently attended an event at the Greater Albuquerque Jewish Community Center and will be at the Aki Matsuri Japanese Festival in September.
Bujanda said there was much more to come.
“We want to make sure we get that word out to the community and say, ‘If you are a victim of a hate crime or think you are a victim of a hate crime, just give us a call,'” said Bujanda. “We want to get this message out to the public so we can move from underreporting to actual, true numbers.”