Listen: Gay bias reports differ

MPR’s Bill Wareham reports on differing tracking results of bias incidents between Minnesota Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council (GLCAC) and the state’s numbers from police records. GLCAC states that while overall numbers are down from previous year, violent hate crime incidents are up.


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BILL WAREHAM: The Gay and Lesbian Community Action Council received 346 reports of bias related incidents in 1994, down 200 from the previous year's total. Rebecca Lovejoy, who directs the Council's anti-violence program, says the drop occurred almost entirely in the most common and least serious offense category, verbal harassment.

REBECCA LOVEJOY: You will note that from 1993 to 1994, our overall tracking of bias motivated offenses decreased. Most significantly, most germane to that decrease, was the tracking of verbal harassment. Overall, however, more serious crimes such as physical assault and sexual assault increased from 93 to 94.

BILL WAREHAM: Lovejoy says not only did violent offenses climb, but many of those incidents reported to the Council don't show up in police statistics.

REBECCA LOVEJOY: The Department of Public Safety noted 38 such offenses reported in Minnesota. That's down four reports from 1993, which was 42 reports. We find this significant because we are noting an increase in those serious offenses, those serious assaults which rise to a level of a crime which are being reported to us. And yet the state is decreasing their numbers.

BILL WAREHAM: Lovejoy suggests two reasons for the discrepancy. One, gay and lesbian victims feel more comfortable reporting incidents to the advocacy group than to police. And two, police and court officials don't always recognize an anti-gay motivation behind a particular crime. Karen Clarke, a state representative from Minneapolis, says recent changes to hate crime laws should improve reporting.

KAREN CLARKE: One of the nice things that I don't know that our citizens know about, we did change in 1993 the way that hate crimes can be reported. It is now a self-reporting opportunity. It used to be that the police that took the report had to say, I stamped this a hate crime. Now, an individual can say, I believe that the crime that was committed against me is a hate crime. And I think as we get that word out, we'll see those numbers come up more and more.

BILL WAREHAM: Another change under consideration at the legislature would allow bias crime victims to bypass the criminal justice system and seek damages in civil court. The burden of proof is lower for civil claims, and the alleged victim, not a government prosecutor, controls the legal response. For the FM News Station, I'm Bill Wareham, at the Capitol.

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