- Associated Press - Sunday, June 5, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Most Utah policies agencies regularly submit hate crime reports to the FBI, but eight small agencies haven’t sent a single report over the last six years, illustrating a nationwide problem of agencies failing to report all crimes to the FBI.

An investigation by The Associated Press identified more than 2,700 city and county law enforcement agencies around the country that did not file any hate crime reports with the FBI between 2009 and 2014, which represents 17 percent of all such agencies nationwide. A lack of a comprehensive, annual accounting prevents the public from knowing the extent of bias crimes at a time of heightened racial, religious and ethnic tensions, advocates say.

Utah’s percentage of non-reporting agencies is lower than the national average at 6 percent. Of the state’s 126 police agencies, 118 have sent in reports over the six-year span.

Among the agencies on the delinquent list are the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and police agencies in Garland, Gunnison and Aurora.

Chad Soffe, police chief in Garland City, population 2,500, said the previous chief didn’t send in the reports. She left the post last year, he said.

Soffe said he’ll make sure his agency is sending its stats to the FBI. A family thinking about moving to the northern Utah city has a right to have public access to crime statistics, said Soffe, who previously worked for police agencies in the Salt Lake City area.

“Statistics in general show exactly what’s going on,” Soffe said. “It’s important for the public to know.”

Garfield County Sheriff James Perkins said by email that his agency hasn’t had any hate crimes to report. He didn’t explain why his office hasn’t sent in a report with zeros.

Police officials in Gunnison and Aurora didn’t respond to interview requests.

Filing reports for the federal count is voluntary. Guidelines call for reports to be submitted even if they list zero hate crimes, a signal to both the FBI and the community that local departments are taking such crimes seriously.

Hate crimes include crimes motivated by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.

Police agencies in Utah reported a total of 50 hate crimes to the FBI in 2014, the latest data available. Most of those came under the categories of race (26) and religion (17), FBI data show.

That was the fewest total hate crimes reported since 2009, and it was well below the five-year average.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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