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Eliminating hate crimes

Posted: August 6, 2009 9:16 p.m.
Updated: August 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
In his recent column, Roger Gitlin (Opinion, July 6, "Hate crimes on the rise? Much ado about nothing") wrote that recent news reports about hate crimes in the Santa Clarita Valley are much ado about nothing.

He says he is not alarmed unless we are talking about murders or rapes. Is that the level of behavior an act has to rise to before becoming something our community would find unacceptable?

Fortunately, there are many religious, civic and educational institutions in our town that are working hard every day to prevent hate crimes and hate incidents from ever becoming commonplace in the Santa Clarita Valley.

But that can't happen if we adopt an "oh, that's not so bad" complacency, as Gitlin seems to prefer.

Gitlin does not like the idea that law enforcement would bother to ask why a crime has been committed; it is enough to just determine whether a crime has taken place and then punish the offender according to the law.

But criminal investigation is always about motive. The why is as important as the who, because without a motive, you may not be able to prove guilt.

The District Attorney rightfully considers whether sentencing enhancements are warranted in hate crime cases.

Maybe it was just a silly prank when, recently, men drove up to that Indian family standing outside a restaurant and sprayed them all with a fire extinguisher.

Maybe their ethnicity had nothing to do with it. But if it did, you don't think that matters?

If two guys get into an argument in a parking lot, that might just be men behaving badly.

If that argument turns into a fight and someone gets hurt, the question of what motivated these men becomes very important.

Was it because one guy took the last parking spot, or was it really because one guy thinks the other guy shouldn't even be living in this country?

The answer to that question matters, because it informs how we, as a community, respond to such acts.

We can then address the problem by either striping more parking spaces or teaching our kids (and ourselves) to recognize that people should be judged as individuals, and not as faceless members of an enemy tribe.

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