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Recent hate crimes a rarity

Ben Godar

Two recent incidents police are categorizing as hate crimes point to

how relatively rare such crimes are in Burbank.

The first incident happened March 31, when a Burbank woman with

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two black sons found a racial slur scratched into the side of their

car. The second happened Tuesday in the gym of Burbank High School,

when a 15-year-old Burbank boy was arrested on suspicion of punching

a 14-year-old Burbank boy of Asian descent and calling him racially

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derogatory names, police said.

The incidents were the first this year to be categorized as hate

crimes, police said. The total number of hate crimes has been

relatively steady over the past three years, with five in 2002, seven

in 2001 and six in 2000.

While hate crimes decreased slightly in Burbank in 2002, incidents

throughout the county increased by nearly 23% last year, statistics

from the County Commission on Human Relations show. In particular,

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Burbank did not see the increases in violence against Middle

Easterners that was seen elsewhere in the county in the months

following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The relative lack of hate crimes in the city might be due to

policies, put in place by the police and Human Relations Council,

that tend to head off tense situations before they lead to hate

crimes.

Sgt. Bruce Speirs said the department makes hate crimes and hate

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incidents a priority. For instance, it classifies most incidents in

which some form of prejudice is the motive as hate crimes, even

though the crime might not fit the district attorney’s definition,

Det. Kevin Grandalski said.

When a situation hasn’t become a crime, officers try to facilitate

communication between the groups and even direct victims toward

possible civil action, Speirs said.

“If there is a problem, we want to look at it right away rather

than waiting until it becomes a crime or someone gets injured,” he

said.

While the court system prosecutes those responsible for hate

crimes, Human Relations Council President John Brady said the

victims’ needs are sometimes not attended to. The Burbank council is

part of a mutual consortium of human-relations organizations

throughout the county, through which Brady said officials can direct

victims to appropriate services such as counseling.

“One thing we should never fear is our own community,” he said. “A

hate crime robs the security that people feel in their own

neighborhood.”

Anyone who has been the victim of a hate crime and is looking for

assistance can call Brady at 841-4038.


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