Federal and state officials urged local leaders to proactively create plans to address hate crimes in their communities.
Dozens of community groups took part recently in an Indiana Civil Rights Commission conference.
Reported hate crimes were up 17% nationally in the most recent data. Against that backdrop, Department of Justice specialist Ken Bergeron says communities must be prepared to address such crimes. He says that includes response plans for events like shootings at houses of worship.
“And then your responsibility in your churches is to act out that plan or do a rehearsal of it annually,” Bergeron says.
Bergeron says mayors and city attorneys should also prepare legal options for hate crimes – options that were added to by Indiana’s new hate crimes law. But Women4Change Indiana executive director Rima Shahid says that law is flawed – it left out gender, age, and gender identity from its list of specific victim characteristics.
“We’re making it harder for those members of our community when we don’t include them,” Shahid says.
There could be a push to include those characteristics to the law next year – but it faces an uphill battle.