According to FBI statistics, Purdue University had the second highest number of hate crimes reported on a university campus in the country with seven. Five of those were race related.
That number was one of many that came to light Wednesday when the YWCA brought law enforcement and local agencies together for a panel discussion on hate crimes and hate groups in the area. Making up the panel were Special Agent K. Jay Stewart of the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Division of the FBI; Chief Deputy Dave Gladieux of the Allen County Sheriff's Department; Dr. Diana Jackson Davis, assistant director of Diversity Affairs of Ivy Tech; Shannon Van Ryn, lead investigator of METRO Human Relations; and Lisa Terry, executive director of the AIDS Task Force of Northeast Indiana.
According to FBI statistics, northeast Indiana in 2009 had three reported hate crimes: two racial, one religious. In 2010 five cases were reported;, with four religious and one racial. and in 2011 no hate crimes were reported. Overall Indiana is ranked 21st in the nation for hate crimes. Although these numbers seem low, only one in three hate crimes is reported.
“It happens more often than the general public is aware of. It's like any other crime, if it goes unreported we can't work on it to fix it,” Gladieux said.
According to the FBI website, “a hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a 'criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.' ”
There are no state laws addressing hate crimes in Indiana, other than mandating education for teachers, Gladieux said. All prosecutors can do when they find out a crime was hate-related is to get a sentence enhancement. So if it was a battery and it was proved to be a hate crime, the prosecutor could ask for extra time for the perpetrator.
“Here and nationwide the largest (offenses) are by intimidation. Intimidating someone to keep them away from exercising their rights is a hate crime,” Stewart said
Sometimes, said Van Ryun, hate crimes can begin with a government policy that is thought to be necessary and becomes a perception that is adopted by society as a whole. It seems to be OK to target these people because they have been identified as someone by the government who you have to be fearful of. Van Ryn referred to a story she had heard on NPR last week that a man who was a Muslim had written that he was concerned that the April 15 bombings in Boston that killed three and injured around 260 would bring up all the hate that surfaced after 9/11.
Anyone can be a Muslim, pointed out Gladieux, there is no “look” that fits. He said that discrimination is similar to what is going on in Afghanistan right now where people are being pulled out as looking like Al-Qaeda – anyone could be.
Although the panel came from various backgrounds and organizations, they all shared the same message: report the crime. If you can't get someone on a lower level to help you, keep moving up the ladder until you get someone to help you.
Every time you report an incident it will be recorded, Stewart and Gladieux said. Enough reports and it will spark an investigation.
Stewart said when the FBI conducts an investigation they look at the incident from a national perspective. Sometimes having a different point of view can help to see a problem a little more clearly.
Both officers agreed if you are not getting satisfaction from one law enforcement group try another. In Allen County there is the Fort Wayne Police Department, the Allen County Sheriff's Department, the Indiana State Police and the FBI.
Van Ryn said to remember if you don't know where to turn come to METRO Human Relations or another support organization in the community. By calling the 211 help line of United Way they can get a list of whom to call for help.