The number of hate crimes reported in Wisconsin is down according to the latest report from the FBI. But one expert cautions that the numbers don't necessarily represent a trend one way or the other.
The FBI report covers hate crimes reported in 2011 and shows Wisconsin with a total of 76. That's 17 fewer hate crimes than 2010. But Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center says those numbers don't include the thousands of hate crimes nationally that go unreported. He says an analysis of the last 16 years of FBI hate crime reporting shows an average of between 6,000 and 10,000 hate crimes each year but recent studies dispute that finding, "There were two Department of Justice studies done recently that show that the real level of hate crime in America is about 200,000 a year. In other words the real number of hate crimes in the United States is 20 to 30 times higher."
Potok says the FBI report is useful in revealing what kind of hate crimes are being committed. For example in Wisconsin, race-based crimes account for more than half of the hate crimes reported in 2011. The next largest category are anti-gay crimes accounting for about a one quarter of the incidents. There were only four Wisconsin hate crimes motivated by religious hatred. But Potok says nationally the report shows a growing number of anti-Muslim or anti-Arab crimes. In Appleton last year, a man was charged with a hate crime for breaking into and damaging two gas stations owned by people he believed were of Arab descent. The deadly attack on the Sikh temple in Oak Creek this year might be included in the anti-Muslim category when the 2012 hate crime statistics are tabulated.