SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Springfield Police Department (SPD) is acknowledging a mistake and updating the hate crime database after Ozarksfirst noticed a discrepancy in the numbers.
SPD keeps a running list of hate crimes on their website, but Ozarksfirst reached out after noticing one from last year was missing. Back in May of 2022, someone spray painted a black swastika on the side of Pitts Chapel Methodist Church, a historic black church in town.
“A hate crime is a traditional offense such as murder, arson and vandalism, but there is an element of bias there,” FBI Spokesperson Bridget Patton said. “It is a criminal offence against a person or property that is motivated wholly or in part by the offenders bias against race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identity.”
Springfield police said the case was initially investigated as a hate crime, but didn’t end up in their database because the damage was not extensive enough to be classified as vandalism. But after Ozarksfirst asked about the specific case, police reviewed the report and determined they erred and it should have been classified as a hate crime. Now the department is working to fix the problem.
“For crime reporting purposes, SPD reports vandalisms with a damage value of $750 or greater. At the time of the incident, it was investigated as a hate crime and a report was completed. When the investigation concluded, there was no suspect or prosecution. When the report was reviewed, it did not meet the requirements to be classified as a vandalism and as a result the details of the hate crime were overlooked and not officially reported. We are in the process of correcting the classification of this specific incident to accurately reflect the circumstances of the crime.”Springfield Police Department
The mistake comes to light during a time when a Hate Crime Awareness Campaign is happening in Springfield.
“[Hate crime] is our top priority under our civil rights program because of the impact that it has on the Community and on the victim,” Patton said. “This is the second iteration of this campaign. With this iteration, we are taking it not only in Kansas City, but we are also spreading it out to other cities that fall under our division.”
In Springfield, there have been 26 hate crime since 2010. Most of the crimes were before 2015 when the standard was raised.
“I think part of or part of the reason that we are doing this campaign to bring the awareness is not only to make sure people understand what hate crimes are, but historically hate crimes are also under reported,” Patton said. “People sometimes are fearful to come forward to law enforcement to report hate crimes. If you are a victim of a hate crime coming and reporting it, you are reporting to law enforcement that you believe you were targeted because of what someone has a biased against.”
There are two City Utility busses with the Hate Crime Awareness Campaign Ad on the outside and inside of the bus. There is a QR code people can scan that directly takes them to tips.fbi.gov where people can file a report.
“It is so important to report a hate crime because if we don’t know about them, we cannot investigate them,” Patton said. “The FBI has a long standing commitment to civil rights enforcement and protecting all victims of crimes. But we need to know about those crimes happening. We need to rely on the community.”
As of this afternoon, SPD updated the database to include the Pitts Chapel incident.