Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Story of the Day - US hate crimes rise
Hate crimes (also known as bias motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a certain social group, usually defined by race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation. Hate crimes differ from conventional crime because they are not directed simply at an individual, but are meant to cause fear and intimidation in an entire group or class of people.
Hate crime laws in the United States
FBI Report: Hate Crimes Increase in 2006
The latest FBI statistics indicate a slight increase in reported hate crimes in the United States in the past year with 7.722 incidents reported in 2006, compared with 7,163 in 2005. The total number of incidents are still way below the 9,730 reported in 2001 by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.
Hate crimes are crimes reported to the FBI which are motivated by biases based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, and disability. Here are highlights from the latest UCR report, according to an FBI news release:
Incidents and Offenses: A total of 7,722 incidents and 9,080 offenses were reported by participating agencies in 2006.
Offense Type: Nationwide, 5,449 offenses were classified as crimes against persons, with intimidation (46 percent) and simple assaults (31.9 percent) accounting for most crimes. There were three murders during the year. Of the 3,593 crimes against property, the overwhelming majority (81 percent) were acts of vandalism or destruction.
Offenders: Of the 7,330 known offenders, 58.6 percent were white and 20.6 percent were black.
Victims: A total of 9,652 victims were identified. More than half—52.0 percent—were targeted because of their race.
Locations: Most incidents, 31 percent, took place near or at homes and residences. Another 18 percent occurred on highways or streets. For a general breakdown of offenses by state, see Table 11.
33% Rise in Hate Groups in the U.S. Over the Past 5 Years
The Southern Poverty Law Center documented a 5% increase in hate groups in 2005 alone; this new figure fuels a 33% rise over the past five years.
Reasons for the rise include:
Greater exposure: Publicity stunts and belligerent tactics employed by these groups, such as marching through Black neighborhoods, provided them with national news coverage
A Uniting Issue: The controversy over illegal, particularly Latino, immigration
The War in Iraq: Hate group members believe Jews forced America into the war
Racist music labels, music, and concerts: Greater availability of hate music has drawn younger people into the movement
A Growing Internet Presence: The number of hate sites has increased from 468 in 2004 to 524 in 2005
Hate Crime on the Rise
Hate Crimes Are About More Than Race
Societies are more diverse today than ever before in history. With that diversity and greater gaps in economic standing come misunderstanding, bias, fear and hate.
Hate Crime is defined at the federal level and, while individual state laws may vary, in general, a hate crime is considered to be: a criminal act or attempted act, against a person, institution, or property, that is motivated in whole or in part by the offender’s bias against a race, color, religion, gender, ethnic/national origin group, disability status, or sexual orientation group. Hate/bias crimes may be violence against individuals or groups or crimes against property, such as churches, temples or community centers. Types of bias motivation in hate crimes are:
Racial Bias - anti-white/anti-black/anti-American Indian or Alaska Native/Anti-Asian/Pacific Islander/Anti-multiracial group
Religious Bias - anti-Jewish/anti-Catholic/anti-Protestant/anti-Islamic (Moslem)/anti-other religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, etc.)/anti-multi-religious group/anti-atheist or anti-agnostic
Ethnicity/National Origin Bias - anti-Arab/anti-Hispanic/anti-other ethnicity/national origin
Sexual Orientation Bias - anti-male homosexual (gay)/anti-female homosexual (lesbian)/anti-homosexual (gay and lesbian)/anti-heterosexual/anti-bisexual/anti-transgender
Congress enacted the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act (HCSA) in 1990. There have been subsequent acts that amended the original act. The act requires the attorney general to establish guidelines and collect and publish data about hate/bias crimes. This responsibility was delegated to the FBI. The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) section of the FBI was assigned to develop procedures and manage collection of bias/hate crime data. Bias/hate crime data reported to the FBI is added to the existing UCR database. Since the reporting of hate/bias crime data is voluntary, the data collected often comes into question. There may be issues of misunderstandings, under reporting, misrepresentations or out and out reporting of false information or failure to report from local agencies.
Monitoring, tracking, even acquiring specific knowledge regarding bias/hate crimes is problematic because of the nature of the crimes. In many cases people may be too afraid to report the crimes for fear of retaliation. In other cases, the crime may not be reported as a bias/hate crime because of bias in the local law enforcement or due to community pressure. There are groups and agencies, both government and non-government, that monitor hate groups such as:
·SPLC Report (formerly Klanwatch) and SPLC Intelligence Project
· Anti-Defamation League
· National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and NGLTF Policy Institute
· Center for Democratic Renewal
· Simon Wiesenthal Center
FBI 2004 statistics show that the number of hate crimes have increased. The increase may be actual or due to better reporting. Even so, numbers reported are likely to be less than actual. Better than 50% of reported hate crimes are race related, 18% religious bias.
Youth are often the target of groups and individuals that promote hate. Young people are vulnerable and often anxious to belong to someone or something. They make perfect targets for the purveyors of hate. According to the Partners Against Hate website, 29% of all known hate crime offenders are 18-24. Partners Against Hate, The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and The Safe And Drug Free School Program have issued a brief on Investigating Hate Crimes On The Internet. Partners Against Hate have taken the initiative to address bias motivated youth violence. Using a grant funded by the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Department of Education Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program, Partners Against Hate has designed and started implementation of a three-year program to include outreach, public education, and training to address the cycle of bias, hatred, distrust, and violence. This program includes efforts to increase public awareness and provide hate crime prevention and intervention strategies, training and technical assistance for law enforcement and other community individuals and groups. One of its most youth oriented efforts involves helping those working with youth to use advanced communication technologies such as the Internet to break down barriers and address bias. The Partners Against Hate web site is a clearinghouse for hate crime related information including resources created using the grant.
The more economic pressure on, the more diversity of culture in and the more mis and disinformation circulated through a population, the more fertile the environment for hate and bias to grow and flourish. Hate crimes go beyond physical injury and property damage. They create emotional damage, instill fear and often cause ripples that reach far beyond the community in which they occur. Hate crimes are particularly offensive when they occur in a country where equal rights and the elimination of persecution based on belief are components of its foundation.
FBI details US hate crimes rise
More than 7,700 hate crimes were committed in the US last year, a rise of more than 7%, the FBI has reported.
More than half of the victims were attacked because of their race, while 19% were targeted because of their religion, the annual report said.
However, there were wide discrepancies, with northern states reporting far more hate crimes than the southern states, despite the South's racial history.
Black activists say the real figure is higher, with many incidents unreported.
The FBI's report details incidents of hate crimes where people were attacked because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.
More than half of the incidents were motivated by racial prejudice, with two-thirds of victims being black and one in five white.
The events in late 2006 in Jena, a small town in Louisiana, where six black teens initially faced serious charges for beating up a white youth after a noose was hung in their school yard, were not included in the FBI figures.
In recent months, there have been several other incidents of nooses being displayed, recalling racist lynchings in the southern US and prompting demonstrations calling for stronger action against racially motivated crimes.
Wide differences in reporting by the states has provoked criticism.
Louisiana reported 22 hate crimes, Alabama one, and Mississippi none, while California reported 1,297 and New Jersey 759.
Heidi Beirich, from the Southern Poverty Law Centre in Montgomery, Alabama, told the Washington Post that many states are dismissive of hate crimes and have different ways of classifying what constitutes a hate crime.
"That's one example of why hate crime statistics are basically a worthless number. It's not the FBI's fault," she said.
An FBI spokesman told the newspaper that he had no response to the perceived discrepancies because it was a voluntary reporting system.
Of the victims attacked because of religious bias, 65.4% were Jewish and 11.9% were Muslim.
Some 1,472 hate crimes were based on a person's sexual orientation - the majority of victims were male homosexuals.
More than 1,200 offences were connected to the perceived ethnicity or national origin of the victim, with Hispanics accounting for nearly 63% of those targeted.
FBI Reports Upsurge In Hate Crimes
Incidents Rose 8% In 2006; Race Continues To Account For More Than Half Of Reported Cases
Hate crime incidents in the United States rose last year by almost 8 percent, the FBI reported Monday, as racial prejudice continued to account for more than half the reported instances.
Police across the nation reported 7,722 criminal incidents in 2006 targeting victims or property as a result of prejudice against a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic or national origin or physical or mental disability.
That was up 7.8 percent from the 7,163 incidents reported in 2005.
More than half of the victims were targeted because of their race, said CBS News correspondent Stephanie Lambidakis, and almost 60 percent of all known offenders are white.
Heidi Beirick of the Southern Poverty Law Center says the numbers are probably higher than that.
"It's unfortunate that the numbers went up by almost 8 percent, but the truth is the FBI Hate Crimes statistics severely undercounts the number of hate crimes that we have in the United States every year," she told CBS News.
That's because only 12,600 of the nation's more than 17,000 local, county, state and federal police agencies - roughly three-quarters - participated in the hate crime reporting program in 2006.
Consequently, the FBI figures did not contain highly publicized incidents in late 2006 at Jena, a small town in Louisiana, which involved hanging nooses reminiscent of those used in the lynching of black people in an earlier time and beatings of white students by black youngsters in retaliation, because neither Jena nor LaSalle Parish (the county where the town is) were among the agencies reporting.
The report's release comes just days after thousands of civil rights advocates literally surrounded the Justice Department building, claiming that lax federal prosecution has fuelled an outbreak of noose-hanging incidents around the country.
The Jena case began in August 2006 after a black student sat under a tree known as a gathering spot for white students. Three white students later hung nooses from the tree. They were suspended by the school but not prosecuted. Six black teenagers, however, were charged by LaSalle Parish prosecutor Reed Walters with attempted second-degree murder of a white student who was beaten unconscious in December 2006. The charges have since been reduced to aggravated second-degree assault, but civil rights protesters have complained that no charges were filed against the white students who hung the nooses.
"The FBI report confirms what we have been saying for many months about the severe increase in hate crimes," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a leading civil rights leader. "What is not reported, however, is the lack of prosecution and serious investigation by the Justice Department to counter this increase in hate crimes." Sharpton urged Attorney General Michael Mukasey to meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and civil rights leaders to discuss the matter.
Mukasey is pledging aggressive hate crime investigations, but concedes there are limits in bringing charges in some hate crime cases, reports Lambidakis.
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 FBI report does not break out the number of noose incidents, but the two most frequent hate crimes in 2006 were property damage or vandalism (2,911 offenses), and intimidation (2,046 offenses). There were 860 aggravated assaults and 1,447 simple assaults, three murders, six rapes and 41 incidents of arson. Other offenses included robbery, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft.
The 7,722 criminal hate crime incidents involved 9,080 specific criminal offenses, including 5,449 against individuals, 3,593 against property, and 38 classified as against society at large. An incident can involve attacks on both people and property.
As has happened since the FBI began collecting hate crime data in 1991, the most frequent motivation was racial bias, accounting for 51.8 percent of the incidents in 2006. That was down slightly from the 54.7 percent in 2005.
Also in 2006, religious prejudice was blamed for 18.9 percent of the incidents; sexual orientation prejudice for 15.5 percent; and ethnic or national origin for 12.7 percent.
Of the 7,330 offenders identified by police, 58.6 percent were white, 20.6 percent were black, 12.9 percent were of unknown racial background and other races accounted for the remainder.
The greatest percentage of incidents, 31 percent, occurred near residences or homes. Another 18 percent occurred on highways or streets, 12.2 percent at colleges or schools, 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages, 3.9 percent at churches, synagogues or temples. The remainder occurred at other specific locations, multiple locations or unknown locations.
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.
Activists march to get hate crimes prosecuted
Sharpton heads march on Justice Dept. that focuses on Jena Six case
Protesters marched through the streets around the Justice Department Friday to demand federal intervention in the "Jena Six" case and enforcement of hate crime laws against those who hang nooses in public.
On a chilly but clear day, busloads of people packed a downtown plaza seeking a big government response to small town injustices. They were angered by charges they consider overly harsh and unfair against six black teens accused of beating a white high school student in Jena, La. Tensions between black and white students had run high for weeks in Jena, including an incident where a noose was hung from a tree at the high school. No one was charged with a crime for hanging the noose.
"If they allow this to be done to these children, they can do it to all children," said Camela Vines, a local hairstylist who arrived at 8:30 a.m. for the noon march.
The march, organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton, came only a few days into the tenure of new Attorney General Michael Mukasey, a former federal judge.
Organizers said more than 100 busloads came for the march, from as far away as Florida, Michigan, and Washington state.
Mukasey issued a statement saying his agency takes allegations of hate crimes seriously and is working with state and local police, as well as civil rights groups, to “investigate aggressively dozens of noose-hangings and other recent racially and religiously motivated” crimes nationwide. Such investigations, he said, do not occur in the public eye.
“We hope that all can agree that it is the criminals who commit violent acts of hate who deserve the loudest protest,” Mukasey said.
The Jena case has angered many black leaders who say the federal government should forcefully prosecute noose-hanging incidents as hate crimes. Lax prosecution of such cases, they charge, has led to other noose-hanging incidents around the country since the Jena case came to light.
Nooses vs. Barry Bonds
"There are so many nooses being hung around America," said Martin Luther King III, son of the famous civil rights leader. "Anytime there's a hate crime the Justice Department should prosecute, and a noose is certainly a hate crime."
Federal prosecutors have said they are actively investigating multiple noose incidents for possible prosecution, but said they did not pursue charges in the Jena case because such charges usually are not brought against minors.
In the last year, the department said it has won 189 convictions on civil rights charges, the largest number in their history.
Critics say they have yet to file any hate crimes charges in noose incidents at Jena or since.
"The Justice Department wouldn't come to the people, we brought the people to the Justice Department," Sharpton said. "Nooses are no prank... We were lynched!"
Some argued the government's priorities are way off-base.
"They spent more time on Barry Bonds," complained the Rev. Frederick Haynes of Dallas, referring to the recent perjury charges against the baseball star in a steroid case.
Five of the Jena teens initially were charged with attempted second-degree murder in a local court, though the charges were later reduced. Charges against the sixth teen, who was booked as a juvenile, have been sealed.
Teen's trial set for Dec. 6
So far, Mychal Bell is the only one of the Jena Six to stand trial. He was convicted in June of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy. The convictions were later overturned and the case sent to juvenile court.
Bell, now 17, was ordered to jail last month for a probation violation in an unrelated juvenile court case.
District Judge J.P. Mauffray on Thursday agreed to open Bell's juvenile trial but noted in a court filing that he was not required to open pretrial hearings.
Bell is set for trial Dec. 6 on charges of aggravated second-degree battery and conspiracy in an attack last December on Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School. Barker spent several hours in the emergency room, but attended a school event later that day.
Typically, juvenile trials are closed to the public. The Associated Press and 24 other news organizations filed a lawsuit seeking full access to Bell's case.
"There will be several hearings between now and the trial," said Carol Powell Lexing, one of the attorneys for Bell. "There are a number of issues to be tackled before the trial itself."
Mauffray disqualified himself from hearing the media's suit because he is a defendant in it.
In his court filing, Mauffray also asked District Judge Thomas Yeager to dismiss the news organizations' lawsuit. Yeager is to hear the lawsuit Wednesday.
An attorney for the news organizations said all the hearings in Bell's case should be open.
"It's fine as far as it goes," Dan Zimmerman, an attorney representing the coalition of media that is suing, said Friday. "But the press and public have already been excluded from hearings. They should not be left out of the others that will come up between now and the trial."
Senator Kennedy speaks on Hate Crimes