Columbus tops Ohio in hate crimes

By Bethany Bruner - The Columbus Dispatch

Statistics from the FBI show that Columbus has the highest number of reported hate crimes in the state and most of them are racially based.

The statistics include data from 2018 that show 350 hate crimes were reported statewide, with 71 reported in Columbus. The next-highest total was in Cleveland, with 38, and Cincinnati with 31.

The report also notes that the population of Columbus is more than the combined populations of Cleveland and Cincinnati.

According to the data, nearly 60% of the hate crimes reported in Columbus in 2018, or 42 out of 71, were racially based. Nineteen were reported to be based on sexual orientation and six on religion.

The report said there were no reported crimes based on gender or gender identity.

The FBI’s data uses information from the Uniform Crime Report, which is used by agencies across the country.

Ohio ranked eighth nationally in the number of hate crimes reported, according to the data. California had the most reported (1,063), followed by New Jersey (561), New York (523), Washington (506), Texas (455), Michigan (431) and Massachusetts (352).

The Rev. Jeffrey Kee, pastor at New Faith Baptist Church and a member of Mayor Andrew J. Ginther’s search committee to find the next chief of police in Columbus, said the report highlights what he and others have been saying for years: racism still exists.

“It’s not surprising to me that Columbus, when it comes to Cincinnati or Cleveland, scores beyond them with Columbus having a culture that is a safe haven for these kinds of hate and biases against race and color,” he said.

Jennifer Knight, acting Columbus police deputy chief, said the FBI’s statistics show that while Columbus had the most reports of hate crimes, the rate per capita is actually less than Cincinnati or Cleveland.

Based on the FBI’s population information, there was one reported hate crime reported for every 12,303 people in Columbus, Knight said. Cincinnati had one reported for every 10,065 people and Cleveland had one for every 10,122 residents.

“What you’re seeing is relatively comparable numbers,” Knight said. “These crimes have a significant impact on the victims and the groups targeted, but they have a devastating effect on the larger community.”

Having an appropriate law enforcement response and gathering the right evidence can “quell fears and reassure that community,” Knight said. But an inappropriate or incomplete response can “allow prejudice and anger to fuel further violence.”

Kee said there is also a policing issue, represented through the Matrix consulting group’s report finding that black community members — who make up about 28% of the population — are involved in about half of all significant uses of force with Columbus police. He said that fosters a larger community culture of racism.

Knight said she believes the police division as a whole has encouraged people to come forward and report hate crimes so officers can help bring those responsible to justice. That includes prosecuting cases with penalty enhancements for hate crimes, if the motivation for the crime can be proven to be based on bias.

“Proving what was in someone’s mind is very difficult,” she said.

By Bethany Bruner

The Columbus Dispatch

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