Hate crime report shows mixed results

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s newly released crime statistics for hate crimes have given the state’s GLBT community equal doses of good and bad news.

While hate crimes based on orientation went down in 2009 vs. the previous year, the numbers went up in Nashville and other parts of the state. Overall, the state logged 52 recorded sexual-bias crimes in 2009, down from 60 in 2008.

“Overall, the report is good news,” said outgoing Tennessee Equality Project board chair Chris Sanders at a post on the Grand Divisions blog site. “The report is a reminder that areas that are becoming more tolerant such as Nashville still have work to do in reducing the number of bias related incidents.”

The TBI report does not cover crimes based on gender identity unless it is now putting such crimes in with the category gender, Sanders added. “The federal hate crimes law was signed in 2009 which covers both sexual orientation and gender identity, so hopefully the 2010 report that comes out next year will have a full breakdown of statistics. The lack of specific reporting is another reason to pass the Richardson/Marrero bill in the Legislature that would add gender identity and expression to the state hate crimes statute.”

According to the TBI, Davidson County saw 16 hate crimes in 2009, compared to 11 in 2008. Those numbers were in the single digits for Rutherford, Sumner, Wilson and Williamson Counties. The numbers were about the same Memphis and Shelby County, which came as no real surprise to Jonathan Cole, incoming TEP board chair.

“It could be that the urban jurisdictions are doing a better job of capturing data like this, and our more rural jurisdictions are not,” Cole said. “It seems at first glance that the numbers for gay men are flat, but that they are rising against lesbians and the transgendered. We’ll be looking more closely at the report, and we think that the federal legislation will help in terms of capturing numbers based on gender identity.”

Having stronger data should also help in the push to add gender identity to the hate-crimes statue in Tennessee, Cole added.

For a look at the TBI report, click here.

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