Prosecutorial Distribution and Bias Crime Designations

Silvina Ituarte, California State University, Hayward

ABSTRACT
Although the Uniform Crime Report provides insight into the number and types of bias-motivated offenses reported across the nation, it does not account for the jurisdictional differences in varying reporting practices, the different proportion of law enforcement agencies reporting bias-motivated behaviors, or the processes by which behaviors reported to law enforcement agencies are distinguished, categorized, and labeled as bias-motivated. In order to better understand what was reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by the local jurisdictions, an examination of the processes by which behaviors are classified, labeled, and handled at the local level must be undertaken.

The official records from Monmouth County, New Jersey provide excellent insight into the processes that filter and classify bias-motivated acts, as well as into the distribution and frequency oif offenses across a continuum of bias-motivated behaviors. The investigation reports from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office illustrate how incidents located in the lower and middle ranges of the continuum of bias-motivated behaviors are handled both formally and informally within the criminal jujstice sytstem, while also delineating the distinctions between bias-motivated incidents and bias-motivated crimes.

For two primary reasons, the examination of this data includes an analysis of all 140 cases reported in 1997 instead of only the 28 incidents classified as bias motivated. First, this researcher set out to investigate the filtering process which takes place by the criminal justice system in classifying bias motivated acts. Second, when addressing bias motivated behaviors, there are numerous policy implications which vary across the continuum of bias motivated behaviors including non-criminal acts of bias such as name-calling.

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Updated 05/20/2006