User-friendly data reporting helps one agency tackle hate acts
When hate incidents are underreported, victims are underserved. That’s why the California Civil Rights Department launched a phone- and web-based system for individuals to safely and securely report their experiences.
Data on hate-related acts is hard to come by, one California agency found, so the state’s Civil Rights Department (CRD) recently launched an online portal and hotline for community members to report hate incidents and receive resources they need to recover.
CA vs Hate, the site for the statewide hotline and portal, aims to address underreporting of hate incidents. In California, reported hate crimes increased more than 30% from 2020 to 2021, officials said in a May 4 statement announcing the initiative. But “these numbers are not the complete picture,” CRD Director Kevin Kish said at a press conference at the time.
“Too many hate incidents fly under the radar even if they are reported, because our state and national statistics aren’t built to track them,” he said. For instance, law enforcement agencies may only collect data on hate acts that qualify as crimes, leaving other incidents out of the picture. Also, individuals may not report their experiences due to distrust of government or fear of further repercussions.
But that data is critical for determining what services, resources and programs are needed to serve vulnerable populations, CRD told GCN. Otherwise, certain communities and individuals may continue to be underserved by government. To fill those data gaps and encourage community engagement, CRD built the hotline and portal with a human-centered, user-friendly design.
The online incident reporting form, for instance, prompts users to select options in response to statements rather than manually fill in answers. As an example, one inquiry asks users to choose any characteristics of the victim that may have motivated a hateful act such as their age, gender identity or sexual orientation. This method reduces the burden on users to recount what could be traumatic events, according to CRD, but the portal does offer text boxes for additional comments if needed. The select option also creates a more inclusive reporting system as individuals may be targeted for more than one identity, not just their gender, ethnicity or religion.
For the hotline, CRD determined humans were far better suited for interacting with victims or witnesses of hate incidents than any kind of automated solution. A team of civil rights specialists and care coordinators are responsible for logging call data and offering community- or government-based resources for further support, the agency said. However, feedback from community members prompted CRD to include an interactive voice response at the start of a call to ask the individual which language they prefer.
With these options, individuals can use the method they are most comfortable with to report a hate act, according to CRD, a factor that is crucial to improving data collection efforts. Aggregated data from logged calls is then sent to CRD’s internal database via an application programming interface, and portal submissions enter the database directly.
Reports that contain personally identifiable information will be stored for three years, CRD said in an email, until the matter is considered inactive. The agency does not share data with law enforcement agencies without the reporters’ consent, according to the site.