Kennedy, Smith Condemn Lack of Action on Hate Crimes Legislation
Today, responding to new 2006 hate crimes statistics, Senators Edward Kennedy and Gordon Smith criticized Congress for not taking swifter action to combat these vicious and senseless offenses. The release of the most current statistics on hate crimes confirms that hate crimes continue to be a serious problem plaguing our communities. According to a new report from the FBI, over 8,000 Americans were victims of hate crimes reported in 2005, and the percentage of crimes motivated by racial or religious bigotry continues to rise. (http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2005/index.html - 2005 Hate Crime Report)
The Smith-Kennedy bill passed the senate 65-33 in 2004 and the House passed a similar bill 223-199 in 2005, but still no final action has been taken. The bill would authorize critical funding to support state and local law investigations and prosecutions of these vicious and senseless offenses. It would also award grants to state and local programs to combat hate crimes by juveniles.
Senator Kennedy said, "Everyday citizens are attacked because of their race, their ethnic background, their religion, their sexual orientation, or their disability. Clearly, we are not doing enough to protect our communities from these vicious crimes- Congress can't keep ignoring these serious crimes. Sadly, these statistics show only part of the problem, because so many hate crimes go unreported. Even more disappointing is the failure of many jurisdictions to participate in the FBI's valuable effort to collect data on these crimes - yet the numbers show that these senseless crimes continue to plague our neighborhoods. With increasing concerns about community violence and diminishing federal funding, Congressional action is long overdue."
"Crimes motivated by hate are deplorable," Smith said. "They strike at the freedom of every American because they seek to intimidate entire groups of Americans and separate them from the communities in which they live. These statistics show once again why Congress needs to equip local law enforcement with the tools they need to combat hate crimes."
Hate crimes legislation is supported by a broad coalition of over 200 law enforcement and civil rights groups. including the National District Attorneys Association, the National Sheriffs' Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Anti-Defamation League, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the Interfaith Alliance and the National Center for Victims of Crime.