Law enforcement, advocacy groups to hold community forum on hate crimes
Reports of hate crimes in Anchorage are low, but researchers say that doesn't mean they aren't happening.
This weekend, law enforcement and advocacy groups are taking part in a community forum to talk about some of the hurdles to prosecuting these crimes — and to discuss why they're likely unreported.
According to the most recent data from the FBI, there was only one reported hate crime in Anchorage in 2017. There were no reports of crimes motivated by religion, gender bias or sexual orientation.
"We have to remember that many people who may experience hate crimes, they are people who may be vulnerable, like people who are homeless, people who are immigrants, undocumented immigrants for example, or people who may not be as proficient in English," said E.J. David, a professor of psychology and UAA and a member of the Alaska Immigration for Justice Project. "They may be afraid to report their experiences because they fear for their safety or their fear for their status in this country."
While hate crime reports may be low, reports of racism in Anchorage are not.
According to a 2013 survey by UAA's Justice Center, more than two-thirds of African American respondents reported experiencing racism while at work. Around 43% of Alaska Native/American Indian respondents said they experienced racism while shopping, and about 27% of Native Hawaiian/Samoan/Pacific Islander respondents reported racism in a health care setting.
While these experiences may not constitute a criminal act, discriminatory acts are protected by law. In Anchorage it is unlawful to discriminate on the basis in:
• Public Accommodations
• Educational Institutions
• Financial Institutions
• Practices of the Municipality
The Anchorage Equal Rights Commission was established in the municipal charter and is tasked with addressing and investigating reports of discriminatory acts.
Criminal acts such as vandalism, threats, assault or murder may constitute hate crimes, punishable by federal law, if prosecutors can prove the act was motivated by bias, but it's a high bar.
"Really only the most blatant and most obvious, most egregious cases can meet that legal definition," David said.
David will participate in the Hate Crimes Forum as a panelist with the Alaska Institute for Justice. The event includes representatives from the FBI, Alaska State Troopers and the Anchorage Police Department.
The event runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Loussac Public Library in Anchorage.
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