A week ago, the FBI released statistics showing the number of hate crimes reported across the country in 2018. While there was a slight decrease in numbers nationwide, Colorado saw a 16 percent uptick in reported hate crimes. A hate crime is a crime committed based on a perpetrator's bias regarding a victim's race, religion, sexual orientation or nationality.
On Monday, November 18, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser and a group of nonprofits from the Colorado Coalition Against Hate announced that they are forming a partnership dedicated to handling the increase in hate crimes.
“We will not tolerate the targeting of individuals with hate simply because of who they are or how they pray,” Weiser said in a statement. “The Attorney General’s Office will do all it can to ensure law enforcement agencies are responding effectively to an increase in hate incidents and crimes in Colorado.”
The partnership will focus on "training for law enforcement, improving reporting by victims and law enforcement agencies, and providing resources to frequently targeted groups." In particular, the Attorney General's Office will make the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which is made up of community members, professionals and experts within the law and law enforcement communities, available as a resource for local law enforcement agency training. Weiser's office will team with the Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region, the ACLU of Colorado, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, One Colorado and law enforcement agencies in Denver, among other entities.
The partnership had been in the works since before the data was released. "We have been working on this partnership for a few months, and the new FBI hate-crimes data underscores the need for action to address hate crimes," Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesperson for Weiser's office, wrote in an email to Westword.
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Pacheco said Weiser decided to take up the issue because he "has heard from many groups that have been targeted with hate crimes, and he has had concerns about an increase in news reports of hate crimes."
Scott Levin, director of the Anti-Defamation League Mountain States Region, attributes the increase in hate crimes in Colorado to more people feeling empowered to commit them and more people reporting when they've been victimized by them. In Denver, the number of reported hate crimes jumped from 17 in 2017 to 29 in 2018.
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But Levin says that law enforcement agencies aren't always correctly identifying hate crimes. Police departments in five Colorado cities — Lakewood, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster and Pueblo, all of which have more than 100,000 residents — reported zero hate crimes for 2018.
"We still have far too many law enforcement agencies that are not reporting at all or are reporting no hate crimes," Levin told Westword recently. "I would hope that there aren’t hate crimes going on, but it’s a little hard to believe that in cities that have populations that are that large that there would be no reported hate crimes."
Levin chalks up part of the problem to a lack of training for law enforcement as a reason why some hate crimes go under-reported by police.
"If you haven’t been trained on how to recognize what is a hate crime, you might just view something as a crime of harassment or vandalism or assault without also noting that the motivation of it were the person’s biases," Levin explained.