Interest Groups Push Officials to Set Up Hate-Crime Hot Line

Article excerpt

Prodded by groups who say they are being victimized, D.C. police and prosecutors yesterday unveiled a hot line that they hope will boost awareness and reporting of hate crimes in the city.

No one has been prosecuted under the Bias-Related Crime Act of 1989, even though several cases have been reported of crime sparked by the victim's gender, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The hate-crimes law lets a judge impose a sentence 1 1/2 times higher than a defendant would receive without the "bias-related crime" determination.

Both U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr. and D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby said the law has not been pressed because few people know it exists and hate crimes have been underreported.

"We can no longer sit by and do nothing," said Chief Soulsby. "What we're trying to do is ensure the crimes are reported to us. . . . We cannot deal with this aspect unless the community brings [it] to us."

A task force of police, prosecutors and community groups said it would launch a public awareness campaign and encourage victims to report hate crimes through a Police Department hot line - 202/727-0589 - installed last week.

The Anti-Defamation League, the Asian Pacific Bar Association, Gay Men and Lesbian Women Opposing Violence, and the Washington Urban League are among the groups in the task force formed in February to study the problem.

"We are concerned that bias-related crimes go unreported," said Betsy Kim, a member of the Asian Pacific Bar Association. …