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January 17, 2018

Philly-area police department to release open data on hate crimes

Law enforcement nonprofit says 'harmful and serious offenses' often go unreported

Crime Police
Norristown Police Department Norristown Police Department/Facebook.

Motorcycles for the Norristown Police Department.

The Norristown Police Department is joining 25 other law enforcement agencies in releasing open data on hate crimes.

"It's time to move beyond our differences and figure out how we can peacefully come together as a community," the department wrote on its Facebook page Tuesday. "Please partner with us by taking a look at our latest initiative and doing what you can to help."

The decision is part of a coordinated effort by the Police Foundation, a nonprofit focused on innovation in law enforcement policies. The organization says the move aims to help agencies "narrow the reporting gap" on hate crimes and prevent future incidents.

The group cites a 2017 Bureau of Justice Statistics report that found while U.S. residents experienced an average of 250,000 hate crimes annually, more than half go unreported.

"Although hate crimes are harmful and serious offenses, they are often not well documented and underreporting is a serious challenge," a press release from the Police Foundation read.

Some of the police departments cited in the group's announcement have already released data on hate crimes, such as Bloomington, Ind.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Louisville, Ken.

The nonprofit hopes other law enforcement agencies will be spurred on to release their data as well.

"The Police Foundation believes that releasing open data is beneficial to law enforcement and to the community," the group said. "It can improve understanding of policing, inform discussions about public safety challenges, and serve as a foundation for two-way engagement and problem-solving between law enforcement and the community."

Norristown police already make some data available on the department's website, including statistics on the use of force, the demographics of officers and crime trends.