In the wake of one of the most bitterly contested presidential elections in history, we’ve seen alarming reports that hate incidents — from racist graffiti and threatening fliers to brazen harassment and intimidation — are on the rise.

But are we really facing a growing epidemic of hate incidents following Donald Trump’s improbable election? Or is it simply the case of “hate crime hoaxes” running amok — as right-wing media outlets would have us believe?

The simple truth is, we don’t know — because we have no system in place to accurately track hate incidents across the country.

Hundreds of 'Love Trumps Hate' rally supporters gather at Kapiolani Park before marching to the Trump International Hotel Waikiki. 13 nov 2016

Hundreds of “Love Trumps Hate” rally-goers marched to the Trump International Hotel Waikiki in November.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The FBI has the Uniform Crime Reporting Program, the closest thing to a national database. But it’s slow to make updates — its latest tally from November, for instance, covers only through 2015. And it’s dependent on local law enforcement agencies to voluntarily respond to its surveys — and many simply don’t.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, meanwhile, has been building its own database, which logged nearly 1,100 hate incidents in the weeks following the election. But its tally is based on media accounts and self-reporting by victims and witnesses, and not all of the reported hate incidents are verified — and some of them have been proven false.

In Hawaii, the task of tracking hate crimes is statutorily left up to the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General. But its annual reports are limited in scope, covering incidents that meet the FBI’s hate crime definition but not lower-level harassment and intimidation.

That likely means many hate incidents go uncounted.

We have no system in place to accurately track hate incidents across the country.

Consider, for instance, what happened to Courtney Wilson and Taylor Guerrero two years ago.

In an incident that grabbed international headlines, a Honolulu police officer violently arrested the lesbian couple when he saw them hugging and kissing at a North Shore grocery store.

Wilson and Guerrero filed a civil rights lawsuit, accusing the officer, Bobby Harrison, of “invidious discriminatory animus” against their sexual orientation — and eventually reached an $80,000 settlement with the city.

Yet, the 2015 report by the attorney general’s office makes no mention of the incident.

Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz, who represented Wilson and Guerrero, says there’s a gaping hole in how hate incidents are tracked in Hawaii.

“When it comes to documenting incidents of hate-related behavior, I don’t really expect much from the government — either state, local or federal,” Seitz said. “I don’t think there’s any motivation or interest from governmental agencies monitoring those kinds of things — and less so under (the Trump) administration.”

hate crime

All this is why Civil Beat is joining a coalition of media outlets and other organizations to work on Documenting Hate, a national initiative spearheaded by ProPublica, in an effort to better track hate incidents in Hawaii and elsewhere across the country.

The goal of Documenting Hate is to compile the most comprehensive national database of hate crimes, harassment and intimidation — and make it a repository of information for journalists to enhance their coverage.

Documenting Hate has developed a form that you can use to report hate incidents for inclusion in the database. If you have experienced or witnessed a hate crime, harassment or intimidation, we urge you to share the information using the form below.

Each report will be authenticated before being added to the database and made available, with privacy restrictions, to newsrooms across the country — including Civil Beat.

Here’s the form:

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