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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release November 10, 1997


November 10, 1997

Today, the President will convene the first-ever White House Conference on Hate Crimes, a day-long event to be held at The George Washington University. At the Conference, the President will announce new law enforcement and prevention initiatives that draw the line further on hate crimes. The Conference will examine the positive actions that communities are taking and outline the steps we all can take to prevent hate crimes.

A hate crime is the embodiment of intolerance -- an act of violence against a person or property based on the victim's race, color, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Every year, thousands of Americans are victims of hate crimes and it is suspected that many more go unreported. Teenagers and young adults account for a significant proportion of the country's hate crimes, both as perpetrators and victims. Every time one of these crimes is committed it creates tension and fear, and tears at the fabric of community life.

Today's Conference is an important element of the President's Initiative on Race and of his vision for One America. Members of the President's Advisory Board on Race will participate in the Conference at satellite locations across the country.

Attached please find summary of the new policy initiatives along with a list of Clinton Administration accomplishments that draw the line against hate crimes.

November 10, 1997

President Clinton today convened a White House Conference on Hate Crimes to call national attention to the problem of hate crimes, highlight effective law enforcement and educational strategies, and announce new federal initiatives to prevent and punish hate crimes. The initiatives focus on: expanding federal hate crimes legislation; ensuring effective and coordinated enforcement of hate crimes laws; promoting improved collection of data on hate crimes; and educating the public -- especially youth -- about the harm caused by hate crimes.

Ensuring Effective and Coordinated Enforcement of Hate Crimes Law

Creating a Network of Local Hate Crime Working Groups. The President announced that each U.S. Attorney in the United States will establish a local hate crimes working group in his or her district. These working groups -- essentially federal-state-local partnerships -- will include representation from the U.S. Attorney's office, the FBI, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors' offices, educators, and community groups. The groups will ensure close coordination on hate crimes investigations and prosecutions among responsible law enforcement agencies; promote training of police, investigators, and prosecutors in identifying and dealing with hate crimes; encourage victims to report hate crimes; and educate the public about the harm they cause. A National Hate Crimes Working Group, located at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., will coordinate the work of all working groups across the country and distribute, on an ongoing basis, information on promising practices.

Additional FBI Agents and Federal Prosecutors for Hate Crimes Enforcement. The President announced that the Justice Department will add upwards of 50 FBI agents and federal prosecutors to enforce hate crimes laws. This addition will more than double the number of federal agents and prosecutors currently assigned to work in this area.

Hate Crimes Training for Law Enforcement. The President announced the development of a model training curriculum on hate crimes for investigators and other law enforcement officials. In addition to using these materials to train federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors, the Justice Department will make these materials available to local and state law enforcement training centers.

Make Them Pay Initiative. The President announced an initiative to assist victims of housing-related hate crimes to seek monetary remedies from the perpetrators. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will act to increase the size of penalties payable by perpetrators of housing-related hate crimes. Additionally, HUD and the Department of Justice will assist the victims of such crimes to bring actions to collect these penalties.

Expanding Federal Hate Crimes Law

The President announced his support for new federal legislation, which will soon be introduced by Senators Kennedy and Specter, to expand the principal federal hate crimes statute. The current statute prohibits any use of force that is based on a person's race, color, religion, or national origin and that is intended to interfere with certain specified federally protected activities. The proposed legislation would make illegal any act of force based on these prohibited characteristics and leading to bodily injury, even if the act did not interfere with federally protected activities. Further, the proposed legislation would prohibit any hate crime causing bodily injury that is based on sexual orientation, gender, or disability, as long as there is a connection with interstate commerce.

Improving Data on Hate Crimes

The President announced plans to add questions about hate crimes to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), an annual survey conducted by the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics, to measure levels of crime through a national sampling of victims of crime. This measure will bring hate crimes into line with other crimes for purposes of data collection. Expanded questioning regarding hate crimes will also be a part of a pilot project to take place next spring to improve the NCVS.

Educating Our Children About Hate Crimes

The President announced that the Departments of Justice and Education will distribute to every school district in the country a manual for educators that encourages schools to confront hate-motivated behavior among students; promotes development of comprehensive responses to prejudice and violence; and makes educators aware of resources that can be used for this purpose. The President also announced the creation of a new Department of Justice website called Hateful Acts Hurt Kids, which is designed to address prejudice, discrimination, and related issues in an interactive, graphic format for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, as well as for parents and teachers.

The Clinton Administraton: Drawing a line against hate crimes

The Clinton Administration: Fighting Hate in Our Communities

In Richland, Mississippi, four members of a neo-Nazi skinhead organization pled guilty to conspiracy and interfering with the housing rights of an interracial couple by throwing a molotov cocktail at their trailer home.

Three defendants, one of whom is a racist skinhead and a member of the white supremacist group South Bay Nazi Youth, were convicted of a civil rights conspiracy after they drove through the streets of Lubbock, Texas, hunting African-American men, luring them to the conspirators' car, and shooting the men at close range with a short-barreled shotgun. One victim died, one was seriously wounded in the face, and another had a finger blown off.

In Livingston, Texas, six defendants pled guilty to civil rights charges for beating randomly selected African-American men with a rifle and a rodeo belt buckle, and punching them repeatedly as they tried to escape. The defendants had been angered at seeing other black men in the presence of white women.

In Livermore Falls, Maine, two defendants pled guilty to civil right charges after firing shots at a Latino victims' fleeing car, wounding one victim in the arm.

[Source: Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, 10/97]

Fighting Hate Crimes Through Tough Law Enforcement:

Vigorously Prosecuting Hate Crimes Under the Civil Rights Statutes. Several federal statutes provide jurisdiction to prosecute hate crimes --crimes where the perpetrator selects the victim on the basis of certain characteristics such as race, color, religion, and national origin. Since 1989, over 500 defendants in more than half of the 50 states have been convicted on federal criminal civil rights charges for interfering with various federally protected rights of minority victims. Virtually all defendants charged in these cases have been convicted. President Clinton's Justice Department has vigorously prosecuted hate crime incidents, including where the defendants were members of organized hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan and various skinhead gangs.

Enhanced Penalties For Hate Crimes. As part of the historic 1994 Crime Act, the President signed the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act which provides for longer sentences where the offense is determined to be a hate crime. In 1996 alone, 27 cases received enhanced sentences.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) Provides Expertise in Arson and Explosives Investigations to Help Fight Hate Crimes Throughout America. While enforcing explosives and arson laws over which it has jurisdiction, ATF has participated in the investigations of bombing and arson incidents triggered by animus against characteristics such as race and sexual orientation. The ATF, for example, has investigated the bombing of predominantly gay bars and nightclubs. Sensible Gun Regulation Helps Stem the Flow Of Firearms that Can Fuel Hate Group Activity. Many organized hate groups use guns to carry out violent offenses covered by hate crime statutes. Treasury bureaus work to intercept gun shipments into the U.S. and to regulate the illegal sale and possession of firearms by potential perpetrators of hate crimes and other offenses.

Prosecuting Hate Crimes Aimed At Our Houses of Worship:

Fighting Hate Crimes Aimed at Houses of Worship. The President fought for and signed the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996, which facilitates prosecutions of racially motivated arsons and other acts of desecration against houses of worship.

Creating the National Church Arson Task Force. President Clinton established the National Church Arson Task Force (NCATF) in June 1996 to oversee the investigation and prosecution of arsons at houses of worship around the country. The NCATF has brought together the FBI, ATF, and Justice Department prosecutors in partnership with state and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Well over 200 ATF and FBI investigators have been deployed in these investigations. In addition, the NCATF has coordinated with other agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, in the federal government's efforts to promote arson prevention and provide resources for church rebuilding.

Many of the 508 incidents investigated by NCATF have been solved, mainly by a combination of federal and state arrests and prosecutions. Since January 1995, there have been 240 arrests and over 100 convictions, including the first convictions under the Church Arson Prevention Act. This rate of arrest (35%) for crimes that may have been motivated by hate or bias is more than double the 16% rate of arrest for arsons in general.

Working with Communities Against Hate:

Bringing Communities Together to Fight Hate. The Department of Justice's Community Relations Service often becomes involved when a hate crime incident threatens harmonious racial and ethnic relations in a community. The Service uses mediation to provide representatives of community groups and local governments with an impartial forum to restore stability through dialogue and discussion. It conducts training conferences on how to prevent and respond to hate crimes for state and local law enforcement and agencies, academic institutions, and civic, business, and community organizations.

Focusing on Youth Attitudes that Create Hate Crimes. The Department of Education is supporting efforts at the local level to develop and implement innovative and effective strategies for preventing hate crimes, including funding programs aimed at reducing violent, hate-motivated behavior among youth.

Understanding the Problem of Hate Crimes:

Gathering Information on the National Scope of the Problem. The FBI Uniform Crime Report collects the only national data on hate crimes through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. In 1996, 11,355 law enforcement agencies, representing 84% of the nation's population, participated in the FBI's data collection efforts. These departments reported 8,759 incidents of hate cimes in 1996.

Studying Hate Crimes: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has funded the first large-scale study of the mental health consequences of hate crimes, focusing on anti-gay hate crimes. The preliminary findings of this research are that hate crimes have more serious psychological effects on victims than do non-bias motivated, but otherwise similar crimes. The study also provides information about the prevalence of anti-gay hate crimes and the rate at which these crimes are reported to the police.