Wednesday, November 12, 2003

State and local law enforcement agencies last year reported 7,462 bias-motivated criminal incidents — known as “hate crimes” — to the FBI, about a 23 percent decline from 2001, the FBI said yesterday.

The number of reported incidents — from more than 12,400 agencies — included 11 killings motivated by racial, religious, sexual, ethnic and disability bias. More than 9,700 hate crimes were reported the previous year, a report of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting says.

Virginia reported 371 hate crime incidents last year, a 14 percent increase from 325 in 2001. They mostly were cases of assault and vandalism, with Norfolk and Virginia Beach leading the list.

Maryland followed with 217 incidents, unchanged from 2001, mostly assault cases, with Baltimore city and Montgomery County showing the most. The District had 18 incidents last year, including 15 assaults, a 260 percent increase from five the previous year.

The UCR report says nationwide more than two-thirds of the reported crimes were against individuals, while about one-third involved crimes, mostly vandalism, against property.

Across the country, the report says intimidation was the most frequently reported crime against individuals.

The report says 48.8 percent of the incidents involving individuals were racially motivated, 19.1 percent were based on a bias against a religious group, 16.7 percent were motivated by a bias against a sexual orientation, 14.8 percent resulted from an ethnicity or national origin bias, and 0.6 percent were based on a disability bias.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced yesterday the sentencing of one of two men who in 2001 attacked a group of black teenagers in Illinois as they walked home from a high school football game. The men shouted racial epithets, threatened to injure and kill the youths and demanded they get out of town.

Harley Hermes, 21, who had pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the civil rights of the four teenagers, was sentenced in federal court to 22 months in prison. Shaun Derifield, 23, also has pleaded guilty and is scheduled for sentencing Wednesday.

“The Justice Department remains deeply committed to investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of racial violence and holding them accountable for their actions,” said Assistant Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta, who heads the department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington.

According to the FBI report, 61.8 percent of the suspected hate crime offenders were white, 21.8 percent were black, 1.2 percent were Asian or Pacific Islander, and 0.6 percent were American Indian or Alaskan native. Groups composed of individuals of varying races made up 4.9 percent of the offenders. The remaining 9.8 percent of offenders were of unknown races, the report says.

The crimes were committed by 7,314 known offenders, the FBI said, 60 percent were of whom were white and 20 percent black. Individuals of varying races accounted for some of the remaining offenses, and the race was not known for some offenders.

Of the 11 killings, the FBI said four were because of racial bias, four with a sexual-orientation bias, two with an ethnicity or national-origin bias, and one with a religious bias. California led the nation with three hate crime killings, followed by New York with two. Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota and Texas each had one reported killing attributed to a hate crime.

In 2001, the number of hate crime killings was 19.

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