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Hate crimes spike: FBI reports 8-percent increase

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By Carol A. Clark

A rise in hate crimes based on sexual orientation underscores the need for hate crime legislation to be presented to and signed by President George W. Bush, according to a recent FBI report. The report states the incidence of bias-motivated crimes increased by 8 percent in 2006.Det. DeWayne Williams said during a telephone conversation this week that in his 13 years with the Los Alamos Police Department, he does not recall a single hate crime incident.“The definition of a hate crime is that the crime is motivated by race, religion or sexual preference and I don't recall any crimes fitting that definition occurring during my tenure here,” Williams said.Police Chief Wayne Torpy praised local residents for not engaging in hate crimes. “The same benefits of the demographics of our community that make it a low-crime community also make it a no-hate-crime community,” Torpy said. “With higher education, people process things better and don’t engage in that type of discriminatory behavior. We have so many people living here from all over the world, practicing many different religions – it’s a melting pot and to everyone’s credit they respect the differences between them.”FBI statistics show that since 1991 more than 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported nationwide. In 2006, 2,105 law enforcement agencies reported 7,722 hate crime incidents involving 9,080 offenses. This is an increase from the 2005 report in which 2,037 law enforcement agencies reported 7,163 incidents involving 8,380 offenses.National hate crimes statistics for 2006 also report hate crimes based on sexual orientation are the third most common type of hate crimes, behind race and religion.In 2006, hate crimes based on sexual orientation made up nearly 16 percent of all hate crimes, up from 14 percent in 2005.This information is released as Congress is set to go to conference committee on the Department of Defense Authorization Bill, which currently includes an amendment that would expand hate crimes protections to include crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity and provide local law enforcement with additional resources to combat violent crimes.“This FBI report confirms what the Human Rights Campaign has known for over a decade – that hate crimes protections for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community are long overdue,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese in a news release. “We urge Congress to send this legislation immediately to the president’s desk, and for the president to sign it into law.”The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) equality.By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.In May of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act in a bipartisan vote.The U.S. Senate subsequently approved attaching the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Bill.If signed into law, the act would give the federal government expanded jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violent crimes based on a person’s race, color, religion or national origin as well as their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability.It also provides assistance to local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence.Existing federal hate crimes law covers only certain hate crimes that are based on a victim’s race, color, religion and national origin.