FBI director: State, local law enforcement need to be more diligent in tracking hate crime

State and local law enforcement need to do a better job of tracking and reporting hate crimes so that the public can "fully understand what is happening in our communities, and how to stop it," FBI Director James Comey said Monday.

Comey told an Anti-Defamation League summit that some jurisdictions fail to report hate crimes in their communities, while others say that none occurred — "a fact that would be welcome if true."

"We must continue to impress upon our state and local counterparts in every jurisdiction the need to track and report hate crime. It is not something we can ignore or sweep under the rug," he said.

The FBI publishes hate crime statistics — offenses motivated by a bias against a race, religion and sexual orientation, among other classifications — from the data it receives from local law enforcement agencies, but those reports are generally incomplete since not all jurisdictions contribute information.

The FBI director was addressing the group just weeks after an avowed white supremacist was charged in Kansas with killing three people outside a Jewish Community Center and a nearby Jewish retirement complex. All three victims were Christian. Comey called the suspect in that case, Frazier Glenn Cross, a "madman with a warped view of what America should look like."

Hate crimes differ from other crimes, he said, because "they strike at the heart of one's identity."

Comey said homegrown violent extremists pose a continuing threat while the overseas threat from terrorism has continued to evolve along with new tactics and methods of communication. Though al-Qaida is less dominant than it used to be, its affiliates remain a "top threat," he said, adding that the FBI also remains concerned about American citizens who travel to Syria and other countries and return home radicalized.

The ADL is a civil rights organization that fights anti-Semitism and bigotry. The group's meeting in Washington was focusing on issues including civil rights, terrorism, religious liberty and the Middle East.