Are federal investigators properly tracking the threat of domestic terrorism?

'That number is a lot larger than what they are reporting'
Posted at 2:32 PM, Nov 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-19 02:19:35-05

(WXYZ) — Hate crimes impact lives — even here in metro Detroit, from vandalism and shots fired through a Black Lives Matter sign in the window of two Army veterans in Warren in 2020, to bomb threats called in to the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield this month, to graffiti. 

In fact, there's still remnants of graffiti that featured hateful messages on a wall on Centerline. It leaves people wondering if they are targeted, if they are victims of a hate crime. And it comes as hate crimes are increasing.

"I think it is really important for people to understand that hate crimes have been on the rise for the last several years," said Michigan ADL Director Carolyn Normandin.

Normandin says her organization tracks hate crimes — because you can’t fight a problem you don’t know exists. And this is a matter of life and death. 

We have seen the horrific tragedies around the country. A Neo-Nazi’s attack on worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina claimed nine lives in 2015, then there was the Tree of Life Synagoge massacre that claimed 11 lives in Pittsburgh in 2018, and then the 2019 mass shooting at an ElPaso Walmart unfolded that claimed 23 lives. 

"It is clear that much of the threats we have seen in this country since 9-11 have been perpetrated by domestic individuals," said U.S. Senator Gary Peters D-Michigan.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters as Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee released a new report this week on the rise of domestic terrorism.

He says he believes federal investigators need to shift policy to recognize that white supremacists pose the primary threat to fellow Americans.

Between 2010 and 2021 white supremacists carried out 51 out of 169 domestic terrorist attacks & plots — more than any other group, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

But Peters says he sees a problem.

He says he has found that federal data on the thousands of hate crimes is missing confirmable incidents.

"The FBI and The Department of Homeland Security are not tracking all the incidents that occur. That number is a lot larger than what they are reporting," said Sen. Gary Peters.

He is calling on DHS and the FBI to do a better job tracking hate.

The FBI says a weakness is that it relies on local agencies to report hate crimes.

"My personal experience has been that the FBI takes things very seriously," said Normandin.

Normandin says while tracking processes may need improvements, it fights hate. 

West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton says his department has partnerships with the FBI and wants the public to also be part of the solution — and if you see something — say something.

"It is always important to know that there are men and women who are very dedicated and always looking at these things," said Chief Patton.