HRC president says statistics reiterate need for gay-inclusive hate crimes law recently passed in House, now facing vote in Sena te
WASHINGTON Hate crime incidents rose nearly 8 percent last year, the FBI reported, as civil rights advocates increasingly take to the streets to protest what they call official indifference to intimidation and attacks against blacks and other minorities.
Police across the United States reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of bias against a race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability. That was up 7.8 percent from 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.
The report included information on 1,195 incidents in which the perpetrators’ motivating factor was the victims’ actual or perceived sexual orientation, an 18 percent increase in such incidents from the FBI’s 2005 report.
More than half the incidents were motivated by racial prejudice, but the report did not even pick up all the racially motivated incidents last year.
Although the noose incidents and beatings among students at Jena, Louisiana, high school occurred in the last half of 2006, they were not included in the report. Only 12,600 of the nation’s more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies participated in the hate crime reporting program in 2006 and neither Jena nor LaSalle Parish, in which the town is located, were among the agencies reporting.
Nevertheless, the Jena incidents, and a subsequent rash of noose and other racial incidents around the country, have spawned civil rights demonstrations that culminated Nov. 16 at Justice Department headquarters here. The department said it investigated the Jena incident but decided not to prosecute because the federal government does not typically bring hate crime charges against juveniles.
The 7,722 hate crime incidents involved 9,080 specific criminal offenses, include 5,449 against individuals, 3,593 against property and 38 classified as against society at large. A single incident can be aimed at both people and property.
Since the FBI began collecting hate crime data in 1991, the most frequent motivation has been racial bias, accounting for 51.8 percent of incidents in 2006, down from the 54.7 in 2005.
Also in 2006, religious bias was blamed for 18.9 percent of the incidents; sexual orientation bias for 15.5 percent, and ethnic or national origin for 12.7 percent.
“This FBI report confirms … that hate crimes protections for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are long overdue,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group.
Solmonese called on Congress to pass pending legislation that would expand the federal hate crime statute to cover crimes motivated by sexual orientation. The law currently covers only crimes based on race, color, religious or national origin.
Lack of full participation by the more than 17,000 police agencies around the nation somewhat undermines year-to-year comparisons.
For instance, in 2004, 12,711 agencies reported 7,649 incidents. In 2005, only 12,417 agencies reported and incidents dropped 6 percent to 7,163. But in 2006, agencies reporting rose to 12,620 and incidents climbed 7.8 percent to 7,722.
In 2006, police identified 7,330 offenders; 58.6 percent white, 20.6 percent black, 12.9 percent race unknown and the rest other races. Thirty-one percent of incidents occurred near residences; 18 percent on roads; 12.2 percent at colleges or schools, 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages, 3.9 percent at churches, synagogues or temples, and the remainder elsewhere.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 23, 2007.
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