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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
October 27, 2006

FBI report shows anti-gay hate crime down,
but is it really?

Washington, D.C.--The Federal Bureau of Investigation�s hate crime statistics report, released on October 16, showed a marked decrease in violence against LGBT people in Ohio.

However, that decrease is illusory, according to Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization.

The FBI statistics, compiled by the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, showed a total of 1,017 reported incidents against LGBT people nationally.

In Ohio, there were 23 incidents reported to the FBI in 2005. Over half of there were in Columbus, which had 12. Cleveland showed one.

The 2004 report had Columbus with 25 incidents and Cleveland with five, and 57 total anti-queer incidents in the state.

The question immediately arising from the report is, did the number of incidents actually drop that precipitously from 2004?

According to McCauley, the answer is no.

Looking at the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs� 2005 hate crime statistics, Columbus had 201 incidents that year, which is similar to what the numbers have been since the late 1990s.

�There�s a lot of different factors,� McCauley said of the disparity. �Only crimes determined to be a hate crime by the police will be included in those statistics, so if a victim doesn�t report it as a hate crime to the police, it will not be included.�

Another problem is the lack of hate crime legislation in Ohio.

�In jurisdictions where sexual orientation is not covered by any hate crime law, obviously the police are not going to be looking for that motivation,� she explained.

Moreover, she added, ethnic intimidation ordinances in Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo, Lakewood and Athens don�t cover all crimes.

�Under Columbus� ethnic intimidation ordinance, it only covers misdemeanors, so felonies would not be included,� she noted.

The problems with the report are not limited to statistics dealing with sexual orientation. The Anti-Defamation League, which deals with prejudice and violence against Jewish people, noted that figures for crimes against Jews are far below their assessment.

�The fact that New York City and Phoenix did not report hate crime data to the FBI makes the 2005 report clearly incomplete and marks a setback to the progress the bureau has made in the program,� said Deborah M. Lauter, civil rights director for the ADL. �It is also disappointing that thousands of smaller police departments across the country also did not participate in this data collection effort.�

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said that the statistics underscored the need for hate crime laws that include LGBT people. Anti-gay bias was the third highest motivation for hate crime in the report, behind race and religion, both of which are much more commonly included in hate crime laws.

�The numbers of anti-gay hate crimes also indicate the need for state and local governments to do more to prevent and investigate hate crime,� he said. �Bias-motivated crime requires a comprehensive response at every level of government.�

�While providing valuable data, today�s hate crime report is incomplete,� he continued. �It is critical that all jurisdictions treat these crimes seriously and report hate crime statistics to the FBI and the public.�

A federal law requires that hate crimes, including LGBT ones, be reported to the FBI. But there is no money backing up the law.

�There is a federal mandate, but it�s one of those unfunded mandates, so there�s no component for training,� McCauley said.

�Unfortunately, the type of response I think would be appropriate in law enforcement does not seem to be a priority in many jurisdictions,� she explained. �It�s only going to get worse, even here in Columbus, because the Columbus police have done away with the bias crimes unit.�

McCauley noted that, while the strategic response bureau of the Columbus Police Department took over hate crime duties in early 2006, �It doesn�t seem to be working very well. I would not be surprised to see an even greater discrepancy in the Columbus numbers.�

The dissolution of the bias crime unit was part of a reorganization of the department, but it may have set BRAVO�s work with the police back years.

�I think we have to have a coordinated set of efforts to educate law enforcement, not just in urban areas but all law enforcement in the state, because having a hate crime law is not going to be effective if law enforcement don�t know how to utilize it and prosecutors don�t know how to utilize it,� she said.

Ultimately, however, not all of the blame for the disparity in statistics lies with the cops. McCauley notes that only 30 to 45 percent of her clients report incidents to the police.

�The rest don�t want to file a report, won�t work with police,� she said. �Lots of education needs to happen before we can bring that statistical data somewhat closer.�

Until a few years ago, three organizations contributed to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reports: BRAVO, the Cleveland LGBT Center and Stonewall Cincinnati. Stonewall Cincinnati is now mainly inactive, operating primarily as part of Equality Cincinnati. The Cleveland center still does hate crime reporting, but BRAVO is the only organization in Ohio specifically dedicated to advocating for LGBT victims of crime.

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