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Hating data

Colorado Springs falls to second in reported hate crimes -- but just barely

Colorado Springs -- for many years the leader in reported hate crimes in Colorado -- has dropped to No. 2.

Statistics recently released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate that Aurora, with 13 reported hate crimes, narrowly edged out Colorado Springs, with 12.

Hate crimes are defined as those that target people who belong to specified minority groups, including those distinguished by race, ethnicity and religion.

The news of the drop in 2003 was welcome to local police, who logged 22 hate crime reports the year before.

Denise de Percin, executive director of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program praised local authorities with recognizing and reporting hate crimes against individuals. "Colorado Springs appears to be doing a better job of reporting. I would rather be in a jurisdiction that knows what a hate crime is and reports it."

However, the nonprofit Anti-Violence Program, which gathers its own data on hate crimes against gays and lesbians, said there is a vast discrepancy between what is reported to the FBI and what is actually happening.

Statewide, the FBI reported 103 hate crimes in 2003 -- only 12 of those crimes were against people because of their sexual orientation.

However, the Anti-Violence Program says it documented more than 150 incidents of harassment, violence and threats against people because of their sexual orientation.

"This says law-enforcement agencies and campuses aren't going to be taking the steps necessary to educate people about hate crimes and to protect possible victims," de Percin said.

Colorado Springs police concur that they could do a better job of tracking hate crimes, following a statistical bungle of their own. While the FBI tracked 13 hate crimes in Colorado Springs for 2003, supposedly using the department's data, the department itself reported 17 hate crimes in the same year in a separate report to the state of Colorado.

Colorado Springs police Sgt. Tony Erickson said he wasn't sure why the numbers were off.

"We want answers to this kind of stuff, not just you," Erickson said, adding that the department is investigating the matter.

It looks like Colorado Springs will have fewer hate crimes in 2004, he added. The department has confirmed seven hate crimes so far this year -- six against blacks and Hispanics, and one against a gay man.

Assault, menacing, harassment, ethnic intimidation and criminal mischief were among the crimes victims faced.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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