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Hate crimes decrease across city


Human Rights Commission cites 11 incidents in 2011

By Colleen Sikorski




More than one person saw the McDonalds newspaper advertisement on Aug. 26, 2011, at La Casa Latino Cultural Center.

A La Casa staff member discovered the words “criminals deport” scrawled next to a Latino employee depicted in the McDonalds ad.

Later, on the refrigerator in La Casa’s kitchen, it was discovered someone rearranged magnetic letters to spell out “you need to leave.”

This is one of 11 incidents detailed in the Bloomington Human Rights Commission’s 2011 Hate Incident Report, which includes the time from July 2011 to June 2012.

The commission has two jobs: organizing educational events for residents and investigating complaints alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, race, religion, color, ancestry, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hate incidents don’t fall into those categories, said Barbara McKinney, the Bloomington Human Rights Commission director. But the commission does document hate incidents, try to refer victims to appropriate resources and work with like-minded community organizations to develop community responses, McKinney said.

The number of hate incidents has decreased each of the last three years, falling from 26 to 18 to 11 incidents, respectively. But the report can only reflect the number of incidents reported, which, the press release acknowledges, may not be a comprehensive account.

“I hope the numbers are down because of improving tolerance in Bloomington,” McKinney said. “The average number over the last 12 years is 20, and it’s certainly encouraging to see the current report so much lower than the average.”

The incidents in this year’s report range in severity, from someone painting “you are gay” on the steps of a home occupied by a heterosexual man and woman to expletive-laced exclamations and pushing and shoving.

Seven incidents were motivated by racial bias, two by religious bias, one by a bias against lesbians and gays and one by racial and/or sexual bias, according to a press release issued with the report.

BHRC collects reports from several sources: police, citizens directly bringing incidents to their attention, local media reports and emails through their anonymous hotline.

Bloomington Police Department works with the commission by investigating each report BPD receives and reporting hate incidents to the BHRC.

“I believe the incidents are down because we have a community that is very much aware, and they will not tolerate this behavior,” BPD Chief Michael Diekhoff said. “That type of atmosphere, I believe, helps in sending a message that it is not acceptable to exhibit hate-type behavior.”

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