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December 30, 2005

Reports of hate crimes increase in Florida

The number of reported hate crimes in Florida jumped by 21.5% between 2003 and 2004, the Miami Herald reported Thursday. Race was the number 1 motivation for attacks, accounting for 60% of reports. Sexual orientation came in second, accounting for 16% of reports.

Why did the number of reported incidents rise to 334 from 274 when they had been decreasing during the past two years? The new data doesn't suggest a trend, but it could be due to "improvements in training that resulted in better investigative reporting by law enforcement," John Peck, spokesman for Florida attorney general Charlie Crist, told the Herald.

Art Teitelbaum, Southern area director for the Anti-Defamation League, called the new numbers very disturbing. "Whenever there is a nearly 22% increase in a category of crime, that is something to pay attention to," he said.

The Herald's survey of 2003 incidents shows that many were name-calling, vandalism, and harassment. But there was an instance of a gay man being shot in Miami Beach. The Miami-Dade state attorney's office currently has two open cases of aggravated battery based on sexual orientation.

Meanwhile, no one can accurately say how many of the incidents led to arrest or prosecution because no state agency tracks such data. An informal survey by the newspaper suggests that number is extremely low. "The easiest way for hate crimes to continue to flourish is for no one to pay attention to them," Peck told the Herald. (

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