Anti-gay incidents in Colorado rose slightly in 2008, report says

Colorado saw a slight increase in the number of bias-motivated incidents against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in 2008, according to a report released today by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

The report measures the number of incidents reported to the affiliated Colorado Anti-Violence Program. That number rose from 118 in 2007 to 121 in 2008, the report says. Of those, only 25 were also reported to the police.

Among them was the murder of Angie Zapata, an 18-year-old transgender teen who was beaten to death in her Greeley apartment last summer. In April, a jury convicted 32-year-old Allen Andrade of her murder. Andrade was the first person in Colorado to be convicted of a hate crime for murdering a transgender person.

Nationwide, the number of anti-LGBT murders rose from 21 in 2007 to a ten-year-high of 29 in 2008, the report says. While the overall number of anti-LGBT incidents reported to the thirteen anti-violence programs contributing to the report decreased slightly -- from 1,688 to 1,677 -- the number of sexual assaults increased, as did the number of crimes involving a weapon.

Meanwhile, Colorado saw an increase in the number of serial incidents, from 16 in 2007 to 26 in 2008. "It is important to note that with many of the reports we received about serial incidents, it was the first time the caller had reported their experience with this ongoing violence, either to community-based organizations or law enforcement," said Kelly Costello, advocacy director for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, in a conference call to discuss the report.

Additionally, the number of offenders in Colorado increased at a higher rate than the number of victims, indicating that several offenses were committed by groups.

Costello offered two suggestions for how to "maintain the dignity and humanity of those who are experiencing bias-motivated or hate violence." First, ban lawyers from arguing that bias-motivated crimes are the victims' fault. And second, encourage reporters to point out that the high-profile hate crimes they write about aren't isolated incidents. Duly noted.

For more on the Zapata case, read Westword's recent feature, "Who Was Angie Zapata? Her Murderer's Trial Didn't Tell the Whole Story."

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