Despite record low reports, AZ still ranks highest in hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people

An editorial message about Nashville...How the DOJ is working to address record low hate crime reports... and a new EYES ON THE STATE

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Protesters who went to the streets for Black justice awareness after the murder of George Floyd. Photo credit: Ted Eytan.


Yesterday, six people were shot and killed, three of them children, in a private religious school in Nashville, TN. There has been much speculation and talk about the gender identity of the shooter, after the police kept referring to the shooter as one gender, but social media snapshots referred to them as another.

As journalists, we are bound by our ethics to make sure we don’t parrot bad narratives or elevate bad arguments. Unfortunately, one of the arguments is that trans people are somehow more dangerous, and that recent shootings have happened specifically because of trans people. This is simply untrue.

Majority of mass shootings, and specifically school shootings, are done by cisgendered (born in their original gender) men. Journalists need to make that point clear and if they report on this, it needs to be up on top, and quick to debunk any reference otherwise.

We also urge, though, to not dive deep into the rabbit hole of gender identity for the shooter until it’s verified, as we have seen this argument used as a straw man in the past before being debunked.

For more on our ethics around this conversation, please visit Trans Journalists Association.

AZ’s hate crime reporting is at a record low, but still the highest in the region against LGBTQ+ people

By Yezmin Villarreal, LOOKOUT newsletter writer

Every year news headlines pop up on social media claiming hate crimes have risen an exorbitant amount, but the data driving those statistics is much more complicated than one single headline can reveal.

Specifically, the data news writers and politicians are using isn’t complete, especially when it comes to reported LGBTQ+ hate crimes, which had the largest increase in cases next to crimes against Asian communities.

That rise in reported hate crime runs in contrast to reports that the FBI’s data is far less complete than the agency would like.

Every year the FBI compiles hate crime data for the state of Arizona from National Incident-Based Reporting System reports submitted to the FBI. The Hate Crime Statistics compiled in 2021 were taken from data received from 82 of 127 law enforcement agencies in the state.

However, only half of the state’s police agencies reported a full year of crime data.

Despite the small number of crimes reported, Arizona still has the highest number of LGBTQ+ hate crimes reported than most other states in the country, according to the FBI.

To combat the poor number of LGBTQ+ hate crimes reported and compiled each year in the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics, the Department of Justice organized an event in Phoenix called “United Against Hate,” hosted at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law on March 21.

The event was the second in a series of events, organized by the Department of Justice outreach program, and was “designed to improve reporting, to rebuild trust, and to create and strengthen alliances” with the LGBTQ community in Arizona.

FBI Special Agent Dan Johnson, who investigates hate crimes in Arizona, gave a presentation at the beginning of the panel, highlighting the lack of reporting of hate crimes and how the FBI is aware that the data they have doesn’t present an accurate picture of the actual number of LGBTQ+ hate crimes that happen every year in the state of Arizona.

The FBI has had a challenging time convincing LGBTQ+ people to report hate crimes, not just nationally, but also here in Arizona. Members of the panel from groups such as Phoenix Pride acknowledged that there’s a distrust that exists with the LGBTQ+ community and law enforcement.

The tension could be alleviated, members of the panel said, if law enforcement took steps to build relationships with LGBTQ+ community groups or community members.

When pressed by LOOKOUT about how the Department of Justice plans to measure the success of the panel, Gary M. Restaino, the U.S. Attorney for Arizona, said: “One of the things that is measurable is reporting on incidents…But beyond that, I'd invite you to give us our metrics, tell us what we should be using to measure success, or at least forward progress in the community.”

Restaino acknowledged the concerns of panel members and the audience with regards to working on building relationships with the LGBTQ+ community in the state.

“We need to have transparency. If we’re asking you to report on hate crimes, we need to do a better job—if we can—of reporting back the results of investigations,” Restaino said. “Can’t always do it, but we should try to do it.”


“It’s personally very difficult for me to measure success with regards to cases because I can’t make the cases come to me, so I measure success by how many new people I talk to every year.
-Dan Johnson, FBI Special Agent on how the DOJ can set measurable standards to address record low reporting of hate crimes, locally.


LOOKOUT's 'Eyes on the State' is brought to you by an exclusive partnership with Equality AZ. Check here every week to see what's being proposed by lawmakers, who are the state power brokers, and context for current and upcoming bills.

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