ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — State officials are working to stem a rise in hate crimes in Minnesota.
President Donald Trump called for legislation imposing the death penalty in cases of hate crimes and mass shootings following deadly attacks in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. The suspect in El Paso is believed to have posted a racist, anti-immigrant screed online before the shooting. Authorities don’t know the motive in the Dayton attack.
According to FBI statistics, hate crimes are increasing nationwide, including in Minnesota. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension says 127 bias-motivated crimes were reported in the state last year. That’s fewer than the 147 hate crimes reported in 2017, but it’s still more than the number reported in 2016.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said officials know that hate crimes are prevalent, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.
“Even if the numbers are not extremely high, those events inject a paralyzing fear into the people who are in the targeted group, whether or not they themselves have been the victims of the attack,” Ellison said.
Ellison, a Democrat, said his office has been putting together a working group on hate crimes. His office has met with legislators, law enforcement leaders and religious and community leaders to try to understand hate crimes in Minnesota. He hopes to turn those meetings into more formal partnerships and recommendations for law enforcement and legislators.
Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald, who was nominated by President Donald Trump, said her office works with the state attorney general’s office and the Department of Human Rights as well as federal, state and local law enforcement to address hate crimes in Minnesota.
“Everybody is committed to prosecuting these offenses, to protecting against these offenses and protecting our community,” MacDonald said. “And what I hope that we continue to do is continue to reach the community and make sure that they understand where to go when they need help — that we’ll always have their backs.”
Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said her office has seen a significant increase in discrimination cases.
Some 40 percent of the charges filed by the Department of Human Rights over the past year included claims of racial discrimination. That’s up from 28 percent two years ago.
Lucero said preventing violent hate crimes needs to start with addressing discrimination.
“We are all the problem here. We are part of creating a system that allows for violence to occur in the first place,” she said.” And so I think the sooner we take ownership of that, that helps us break down this sense of helplessness that people feel around all of this.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org