Faced with an unprecedented rise in hate crimes, city officials are trying to stem the tide of intolerance. This evening, the city will sponsor its first ever community forum to address the alarming problem.
“We are going to pull together all these different types of people and learn how to prevent it before it happens,” said city Councilmember Kriss Worthington.
The statistics are ominous. There have been 51 hate crimes reported since Sept. 11, 2001 and 35 reported hate crimes in Berkeley so far this year. That is six more than the total reported between 1996 and 2000, according to a report prepared by Berkeley police Captain Bobby Miller.
“The crimes are all across the board,” Miller said, but he noted a particular increase in violence against Jews and Muslims since last year’s terrorist attack.
Such crimes include physical assault as well as more passive crimes like as spray painting slurs on public property.
The meeting will include testimony from recent hate crime victims and will give residents an opportunity to discuss their experiences and present ideas on how to prevent hate crime. A professional facilitator will lead the meeting that will be attended by city, university and school board officials.
According to City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque, the city has already started addressing the issue. Working with the police department, Albuquerque said the city has been training officers on how to handle hate crimes, including informing victims of available counseling services.
Berkeley’s surge in hate crimes is not an isolated phenomenon, Worthington said.
“Sadly, Berkeley is too much like the rest of the country in that we are experiencing an astronomical increase in hate crimes,” he said.
The hate crimes forum will be held this evening at the North Berkeley Senior Center at 1901 Hearst Street from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
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