Tampa is No. 1 in Florida for hate crimes

Jim Burroway, a writer for the LGBT info website Box Turtle Bulletin, wrote an informative piece in 2006 analyzing the FBI's hate crime statistics with gay marriage ban referendums in various states. His conclusion? Hate crimes rose sharply in those states.

From his article:

There were 150 hate crimes incidents based on sexual orientation for these thirteen states in 2003, before ballot measures to ban same-sex marriage were on the radar. But in 2004 when voters were asked to approve these bans, this figure rose to 220 – a 47% increase. This rise far outstrips the increase in the covered population for these thirteen states (38.2 million for 2003 to 43.4 million for 2004, an increase of only 14%). Even if you account for the increase in the population covered by these statistics, it still amounts to an alarming 31% increase in reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation in these states.

For some of these states, this increase is especially worrisome. Ohio went from 32 hate crime incidents based on sexual orientation in 2003 to 57 incidents in 2004. That’s equivalent to a 66% increase after adjusting for differences in population coverage. Michigan went from 41 incidents in 2003 to 73 in 2004 (for an adjusted 72% increase). Missouri went from 5 to 11 (an adjusted 82% increase).

The correlation between political hot button issues, referendums and politicians' rhetoric and violence isn't  limited to just gays and lesbians. The Anti-Defamation League crunched this year's FBI numbers and found another interesting statistic:

For the fourth year in a row, the number of reported crimes directed against Hispanics increased – from 576 in 2006 to 595 in 2007.

Coincidence or the consequence of an increasingly tense border situation inflamed by the Minutemen, racist anti-immigrant groups and those Republican primary candidates?

Another fact to keep in mind: not all police agencies submit hate crime statistics to the FBI. In reality, the situation in Florida, and across the country, could be much worse.

We're No. 1! We're No. 1!

But it's not time to celebrate. The FBI's annual hate crimes report is out and, although hate crimes have dropped across the country, Tampa has earned the dubious honor of having the highest amount of cases in Florida for 2007. The second year in a row.

According the FBI, Tampa had 13 hate crimes in 2007: eight of those involved race, four involved religion and one was based on sexual orientation.

Now, 13 is just a small slice of the 166 incidents reported in Florida last year. But pinning Tampa's No. 1 status its size or population would be a mistake. I don't think it's a coincidence that the man behind Amendment 2 and the architect of the gigantic Confederate Flag at I-4 and I-75 both live in or around Tampa

And if past studies are right, we might be No. 1 next year too, based on the homophobic rhetoric coming out of the Amendment 2 debate.

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