Police Agencies Crack Down on Hate Crimes

Los Angeles Times/September 20, 2001
By Kenneth Reich and Patrick McGreevy

Local, state and federal officials vow vigorous prosecution of such incidents. Lockyer's office is investigating 70 possible cases.

State Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer said Wednesday his office is investigating 70 possible hate crimes against Muslims, Arab Americans and others that have allegedly occurred in California since last week's terror attacks.

"This is a time of grief and anger," the attorney general said during a news conference at the Islamic Center of Southern California in Los Angeles.

"Emotions are understandable, but they do not excuse 5-year-olds being called terrorists. That kind of hate is not to be tolerated." Lockyer was joined by other law enforcement authorities including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

Baca said that what he called "retaliatory hate crimes" are posing new challenges to his department. He said he has assigned five investigators to determine whether the killing of an Egyptian American in San Gabriel was a hate crime.

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo announced that he is expanding his own hate crimes unit to focus not only on prosecution of hate crimes, but also their prevention.

Earlier, a Delgadillo spokesman said his office has received 37 reports of possible hate crimes in the last week.

Also at the event was Ronald Iden, special agent in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office, who said the FBI is investigating reports of 50 federal hate crimes against the Muslim American community across the country in the last week, including nine in the Los Angeles area.

"We will not tolerate such acts," said Iden. "We ask anyone who believes they are a victim to contact us."

The FBI agent also thanked hundreds of people who speak Arabic or other Middle Eastern languages who have called his office to offer their services as translators.

John Gordon, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said the fight against terrorism "does not mean we will ignore hate crimes. If you commit such a crime, you're not going to get credit because you committed it out of a misguided sense of patriotism."

Cmdr. Garrett Zimmon of the Los Angeles Police Department said the LAPD has assigned special patrols to keep law enforcement's eye on Muslim and Jewish places of worship to ensure their security.

Pleading for understanding was Opjit S. Ghuman of Huntington Beach, representing the state's Sikhs, who deplored the murder of a Sikh in Mesa, Ariz., apparently out of a mistaken belief he was a Muslim.

Ghuman said, "Sikhs do not have a Middle Eastern background. They are mostly from northern India. They certainly do not follow Islam and they are not Muslim. Sikhism is a religion in its own right."

Expressing gratitude for the turnout at the Islamic Center was its executive director, Salam Al-Marayati.

"As we are united against terrorism, so we are united against hate," Al-Marayati said. "We will provide every resource to bring the perpetrators of both to justice. But we need as many civil liberties now as before the attacks."

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