Each year, the FBI publishes statistics about hate crimes, and each year the FBI reports a small number of anti-heterosexual hate crimes.
ProPublica tried to get information about the 142 anti-heterosexual hate crimes the FBI said happened between 2010 and 2016. It was able to get reports on 58 of them.
None of those crimes were actually anti-heterosexual hate crimes. About half were actually anti-gay or anti-bi hate crimes that were miscategorized. Others were hate crimes against other groups of people, like Jews and African Americans. And some weren’t hate crimes at all.
For example, someone named “Rob” who lives in Columbus, Ohio, called the police when his landlord and a man screamed and threatened him and called him “queer.” He didn’t end up pressing charges.
The crime was reported as “anti-heterosexual,” even though Rob believes he was targeted because he’s gay.
“A thing that I’ve dealt with my entire life as a gay man is extreme prejudice, from threats to constant harassment,” he told ProPublica.
Part of the problem could be police department’s reporting systems, where 41 is the code an officer has to type for anti-gay hate crimes, and 44 is for anti-straight hate crimes, meaning that pressing one wrong button can result in a misreported crime.
In San Leandro, California, the computer system was to blame. That city reported three anti-straight hate crimes between 2014 and 2016, but it turned out that the computer was associating the wrong code with selections from a drop menu.
Jeanine Bell, a law professor at Indiana University, said that it’s a sign of a larger problem. “It means that police fundamentally are not investigating hate crimes.”
“Hate crime needs to be more than checking a box.”