The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES — A half dozen hate crimes a day are reported in California, according to experts who say they are certain that number would be even higher if all victims were willing to come forward.
A hate crimes commission created in the aftermath of the 1999 North Valley Jewish Community Center shooting in Los Angeles concluded that people who are potential targets of hate need to know they can go to the police and be protected.
“We know there’s about six hate crimes reported each day, unfortunately, there’s probably more not being reported,” California Attorney General Bill Lockyer told a news conference called Thursday to unveil the commission’s report.
The Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes, charged with finding ways to encourage the reporting of hate crimes, was created by Lockyer in 1999 after White supremacist Buford O. Furrow went on a shooting rampage that killed a man and wounded five other people.
Furrow was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole earlier this week.
After wounding three children, a teen-age girl and a woman at the North Valley Jewish Community Center in the San Fernando Valley, Furrow fatally shot Filipino-American mail carrier Joseph Ileto.
The commission, comprised of educators, officers, lawyers and activists from around the state, found that hate crimes tend to be underreported because of cultural or language barriers, fear of retaliation and lack of education.
The report recommended launching a multi-lingual public awareness campaign, creating a toll-free hot line and passing legislation that will promote tolerance programs in schools and provide money for community programs.
It also recommended that law enforcement agencies work together by identifying and responding to hate crimes, whether the crime is based on race, sexual orientation, disability or gender.
“It’s a model of how to attack the problem not only in the state but nationwide,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca who attended Thursday’s news conference at the Museum of Tolerance.
Some of the report’s recommendations have already been turned into legislation. State Sen. Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, has authored two bills, one to provide grants to groups promoting awareness, and another to create a toll-free hot line for people to report hate crimes.
Another bill, authored by Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Fremont, would require schools to train teachers and students to recognize hate crimes. All three bills are expected to be taken up by the Legislature next month.
Ismael Ileto said Thursday he was grateful for the effort to fight hate crimes that his brother’s murder helped inspire.
“I realize there are a lot of issues – schools, housing, you name it – but in my opinion it doesn’t do any good if we’re hating each other,” he said.