The Human Rights Campaign said the FBI’s new crime report
released in late October shows that the disturbing trend of hate crimes continues
unabated despite lower overall crime rates.
FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2000 – the latest year for which statistics
are available -showed that as overall serious crime decreased slightly
nationally, with the Crime Index at its lowest level since 1978, reported
hate crimes have continued to rise and increased 3.5 percent from 1999 to
2000. At the same time, the number of law enforcement agencies
participating in reporting hate crimes decreased 3.6 percent from 12,122 to
Reported hate crime incidents based on sexual orientation continued to
increase and rose 0.9 percent. Reported hate crimes based on sexual
orientation have more than tripled since the FBI began collecting statistics
in 1991, and comprise 16.3 percent of all hate crimes for 2000 at 1,330.
Hate crimes based on sexual orientation continue to make up the third
highest category after race and religion, which make up 53.6 and 18.2
percent, respectively of the total, 8,152.
“Behind each statistic is a life impacted by hate violence,” said HRC
Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. “As Congress modernizes its
terrorism laws, we should bring our 33-year-old federal hate crimes statute
up to date by passing the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. This bill
would give 21st century tools to law enforcement by allowing better
coordination between federal, state and local law authorities.”
It is widely known that hate crimes based on sexual orientation are
under-reported, and evidence indicates that FBI data does not paint the
whole picture. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a
private organization that tracks bias incidents against gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender people, reported 2,151 incidents in 2000 in only 11
cities/jurisdictions across the country while the FBI collected statistics
from 11,690 reporting agencies for the year.
In 2001, a series of violent hate crimes have alarmed lesbian and
gay advocates across the nation. For example, on July 29 Willie Houston, 38,
was fatally shot in the chest in Nashville, Tenn., after the alleged gunman,
Lewis Maynard Davidson III, 25, taunted him with anti-gay epithets. Houston
had just finished a midnight riverboat cruise with his fiancée, Nedra Jones,
and friends when the trouble started. Houston escorted a blind male friend
by the arm into a restroom while holding Jones’ purse. Inside the restroom,
the gunman allegedly hurled anti-gay insults at the friends. He followed
them out of the restroom, while continuing his verbal harassment. Davidson
then allegedly returned to his car where he retrieved a gun and said, “Now
what you got to say?” before firing the weapon at Houston. Police are
searching for Davidson and have yet to officially call it a hate crime,
saying the investigation is “still very much open.” While the victim is
reportedly not gay, Tennessee hate crime laws cover violence based on real
or perceived sexual orientation.
University of Maryland campus police are investigating a violent hate crime
that occurred on Oct. 11 during National Coming Out Day. According to
police, a 22-year-old woman wearing gay-supportive pins was hanging her
bicycle on her car rack when a man approached her from behind and struck her
on the back of her head, pushing her head into the rack and knocking her to
the ground. The white male kicked her several times while she was on the
ground as he hurled anti-lesbian epithets and expletives. The woman, who
was treated at the University health center, sustained a black eye, a bruise
on her nose and scratches on her legs and arms. The woman only saw the
man’s leg, and police have no suspects.
Lorenzo Okaruru, according to detectives, died after being savagely beaten
about the head and face on Aug. 26 with a blunt instrument, most likely by a
man who picked up someone he thought was a woman and was angered to find out
Okarura was a man. Law enforcement officials have said they believe Okaruru
was killed based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Washington
County Sheriff’s Office classified Okaruru’s August 26th beating death as a
hate crime, the first such killing in the county.
Edgar Garzon, 35, died three weeks after he was attacked when leaving a gay
bar in Jackson Heights on August 14, according to police. Garzon suffered a
skull fracture in the attack and died at Elmhurst General Hospital. Garzon
had just left Friends Tavern when two men in a red car exchanged words with
him and followed him toward his home. At the intersection the suspects got
out of their car, pounded Garzon with either a baseball bat or lead pipe,
then fled with his wallet. Police have labeled the beating a bias attack.
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