Hate Crimes Still a Concern in Iowa
Thursday, October 28, 2021
NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa -- New FBI data show an increase in hate crimes in Iowa.
Locally, ordinances have been crafted to ensure more protections for those who've been victimized, while some in law enforcement say changes to state law would help.
This fall's report showed in 2020, Iowa saw 12 hate-crime incidents motivated by racial bias, compared with six the previous year.
The city of North Liberty recently adopted a new ordinance including fines and jail time for someone convicted of such a crime.
RaQuishia Harrington, a city councilor in North Liberty, said they were not necessarily responding to a wave of cases, but wanted to be proactive and not reactive.
"Hopefully, it doesn't happen in communities. But the reality is, it does," Harrington observed.
She hopes people feel more comfortable about coming forward if they have something to report, or to be more aware of bias and when it escalates.
In 2019, Iowa City adopted a similar ordinance.
Nick Maybanks, first assistant Linn County Attorney, said current state law makes it hard for cases to prove, and an overhaul of the statute could make it easier to net prosecutions.
Maybanks stressed he would support state law changes, so law enforcement would have more clarity.
"I think there's a lot of situations where it's probably really close, but maybe it's just treated as a regular assault," Maybanks contended.
Overall, the FBI report said there were 15 confirmed hate crimes in Iowa last year, compared with 10 in 2019. Despite the totals, law enforcement, victim support groups and racial-justice advocates have widely spoken out about how hate crimes often go unreported.
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