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Local law enforcement reacts to new hate crimes statistics



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The side of St. David's Episcopal Church in Bean Blossom, Indiana, was graffitied with a swastika in November 2016. Indiana law enforcement agencies received 78 reports of a hate crime last year, 10 of which happened in Bloomington. Katelyn Haas Buy Photos

Indiana law enforcement agencies received 78 reports of a hate crime last year, 10 of which were handled by Bloomington Police Department. Local law enforcement is working to combat these crimes.

Although Indiana is one of only five states that doesn’t have any hate crime legislation, the state requires the Bloomington and IU Police departments to report them. A hate crime is defined by Indiana as an offense where a person has knowingly selected another person or property to damage based on color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation.

IUPD’s Capt. Craig Munroe said the department reports hate crimes if bias is the crime’s motivation.  If the suspect of the crime was pushed to do so by bigotry or bias towards a certain group. Cops use clues and evidence from the crime scene and look into suspects' criminal history to see if there is bias in their motivation.

“If I put a swastika on the wall of a white supremacist’s house, it would not be a hate crime because there is no bias,” Munroe said.

Campus police go through diversity training before becoming officers, Munroe said, and hate crimes are constantly evolving. In 2013, the FBI added gender and gender identity to its list of groups affected by hate crimes. 

A main goal for officers handling these crimes is to find the motivation.

“It is important that we are able to recognize but also understand these crimes, that we can work to prevent them,” BPD Capt. Steve Kellams said.

BPD has been transparent by partnering with the Police Data Initiative, a group of law enforcement agencies and researchers that collect and publish police data. This transparency is important to the department because it builds trust and accountability, Kellams said. 



In addition to publishing hate crime statistics through PDI and the internet, BPD also sends them to the FBI through their Uniform Crime Reporting Program. The FBI recently published updated statistics, showing reported hate crimes up by more than 1,000 in 2017 versus the year before. However, there were approximately 1,000 additional police agencies reporting this year. 

“As cops we take these crimes very seriously,” Munroe said. “They have to be handled with care and attention.” 

The FBI reported an increase in U.S. hate crimes from 2014-2017. 

 

This year, BPD has had five reported hate crimes according to the City of Bloomington’s website. Two of the reports were for assaults by white men, one anti-Jewish and one anti-black. 

Despite Indiana not having any hate crime legislation, Kellams said citizens can’t ignore them because of their effect on the community. 

“Reporting these crimes allows Bloomington to stay informed,” Kellams said “It gives people a better understanding of what is going on around them.” 

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