The second annual MI Response to Hate conference spread awareness of the growing problem of hate and bias-motivated crimes in Michigan on Friday.
The conference was hosted by the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights at Kellogg Center.
In 2006, the Department of Justice reported there were 653 hate crimes and 739 bias-motivated crimes in the state of Michigan, in its report “Hate Crime Statistics, 2006.” Michigan ranks third overall in the country in hate and bias-motivated crimes.
Linda V. Parker, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, said Michigan’s hate crime numbers can be attributed to the state’s compliance with reporting hate crimes and its segregated racial climate.
“I think that part of it is due to the fact that people do not want to live, or have their children educated, by people who look different than them,” Parker said.
Of Michigan’s 739 bias-motivated crimes, nearly three-fourths were racially motivated — a total of 477.
The city of Taylor had the greatest amount of hate crimes with 44, all of which were listed as racially motivated, the report said.
According to the FBI’s “Hate Crime Statistics, 1998,” Michigan recorded 427 hate crimes, ranked fifth overall in the country.
The conference’s keynote speaker, Lt. Brett Parson of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, said increased awareness through diversity training is something his department does to limit the spread of hate crimes.
“People who hate and people who are prejudiced are always going to be out there and commit those crimes,” Parson said. “What we can do is raise people’s awareness and create an environment of intolerance for intolerance.”
Straddling the line between enforcement and raising awareness can be difficult for police, Parson said.
“You and I may be sitting across the table at a meeting talking about hate and bias crimes, but I may respond to your home for a loud party, I may respond to your home for domestic violence,” Parson said. “So we have to walk that very thin line of being advocates and being enforcers in the community, and it’s a difficult line to walk.”
Parker said the goal of the conference was to provide the diverse crowd with a model to reduce hate crimes in their communities.
“I think the spectrum of folks here today really speaks to how everyone in Michigan is affected by hate crimes,” Parker said.