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Roger Gitlin: Hate crimes on the rise? Much ado about nothing

Posted: July 5, 2009 8:59 p.m.
Updated: July 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Front page headline, The Signal, June 21, 2009: "Hate Crimes on the rise in the SCV."

On first glance, I was shocked by this report.

I read about a 45-year-old Latino man from Simi Valley, allegedly attacked at a Canyon Country park and ride by a man, self-described as a Nazi, (again allegedly) spewing racial slurs and swinging a baseball bat, striking the victim. I was alarmed by this senseless act.

Let me be perfectly clear, I condemn such behavior as vile and disgusting.

Signal Senior Writer Brandon Lowrey's news article rightfully portrayed this incident as indeed serious; however, Lowrey's report of a spike in Santa Clarita Valley hate crimes is somewhat misrepresentative.

Lowrey tells us hate crimes are on the rise and threaten to break the record for such crimes set in 2006, according to sheriff's statistics.

So far, 13 hate crimes have been reported this year in the Santa Clarita Valley. In 2008, there were 16 reported hate crimes, 15 in 2007, and 29 in all of 2006.

This news report appears to be much ado about nothing.

Maybe it's my perception of this so-called hate crime problem but unless it's 13 murders or 13 rapes, I am not alarmed by the 13 cases of reported hate crimes this year.

Political correctness appears to be a clear criterion for hate crime identification.

I spoke at length with sheriff's Detective Christopher Keeling who investigates hate crimes in the SCV. He outlined how the District Attorney classifies these crimes, thus adding sentence guideline enhancements.

Use of racial or ethnic pejoratives would qualify an assault and/or battery for an upgrade to a hate crime. So, a suspect can beat you to a pulp with a baseball bat, but unless he calls you a racial or ethnic slur in the attack, it isn't a hate crime.

I am left to believe it is the Los Angeles County District Attorney who somehow keeps abreast on all the latest racial, ethnic and cultural jargon, as to what is or is not a hateful slur.

I am sorry, there are just too many flaws in that ointment to make this identification system unbiased.

I hate hate crimes legislation. I find it appalling that California, and now our federal government, attaches enhancements on felony crimes such as assault, battery, manslaughter, attempted murder and murder.

It is not necessary to add these enhancements fraught with political correctness when penalties are in place for those who commit heinous crimes.

Simply enforce existing law and do it aggressively.

Nanny-state architect Sheila Jackson (D-Texas) sponsored the David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The House recently passed the bill.

The legislation amends the federal criminal code to impose penalties for willfully causing "actual or perceived" bodily injury for race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability offenses where the offense is or affects interstate or foreign commerce.

It's another layer of bureaucracy; another layer of political correctness.

The bill awaits debate in the Senate with an almost certain passage by the radical agenda-driven Democrats, and will most certainly be expeditiously signed by President Obama.

America is burdened by an overabundance of laws governing all aspects of criminal and civil actions.

The scope of our voluminous laws includes every conceivable crime, and provides varying degrees of severity. Why do we need yet more bureaucracy with crime and criminals?

I say, simply enforce the rule of law.

Roger Gitlin is a Santa Clarita Valley teacher and founding member of the Santa Clarita Valley Independent Minutemen. He can be reached at ragitlin@aol.com. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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