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FBI hate crime rate down in ND, but may be missing 7 Fargo cases

FARGO — The FBI last week released its annual statistical report on hate crimes and, for the first time in several years, North Dakota was not among the top 10 states based on hate crimes per capita.

It's possible, however, the FBI report didn't contain pertinent data from the city of Fargo, which logged seven hate crimes in 2016 that may not be reflected in the FBI report.

In the latest FBI report, North Dakota ranked 38th among the states and the District of Columbia for hate crimes per capita, with 1.05 crimes per 100,000 population.

Since 2012, North Dakota ranked second in the nation every year except 2013.

In the latest report, North Dakota reported eight hate crimes in 2016, with seven of them relating to ethnicity.

Those seven cases included two in Bismarck; two in Watford City; one in Williston; one in Hettinger; and one at the University of North Dakota.

One religion-based bias crime was reported in Grand Forks in 2016, according to the report.

Apparently missing from the report were seven bias crimes reported to the Fargo Police Department in 2016.

If those seven crimes are added to North Dakota's total, it could conceivably push the state's hate-crimes-per-capita ranking to No. 5.

Fargo Police Chief David Todd said the seven cases include two based on physical disability; two based on race —- including one that was anti-white; and three crimes that were based on religion, including one that was biased against Islam.

Todd said that while bias crimes tend to get more attention in the media than other types of cases, "We investigate them the same way we investigate a crime without bias.

"Our goal is to solve that crime and present that information to the judicial system that can then decide how to prosecute that crime," Todd said.

"We're talking seven crimes here," he added. "Last year, we answered 80,000 calls for service, or something close to that. Statistically speaking, that's a pretty minute percentage."

Todd said that so far in 2017, six hate crimes have been reported in Fargo.

In addition, there have been incidents that involve clashes between cultures that some may view as hate crimes while others don't.

A situation arose this past summer in which a white woman was caught on cellphone video threatening a group of three Muslim women in the Walmart parking lot on 13th Avenue South in Fargo.

The white woman is heard telling the trio to "go home" and "we're gonna kill all of ya."

No charges have been brought in that case.

Likewise, no one has been charged in connection with a situation that occurred this past spring at a Hornbacher's store in Moorhead involving a man who reportedly verbally harassed a pregnant woman who was wearing a hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women in public.

In another case, a U.S. citizen from Somalia reported to Fargo police in September that he found what he believed was animal feces smeared on the seats and other interior parts of his car.

In a separate case, two men were charged in Cass County District Court in Fargo earlier this year with simple assault for attacking a Somali-American.

A witness to the attack said the assailants yelled, "What are these n----- doing here?"

The charge the men faced was not a bias crime charge, however.

Moorhead and Minn.

According to the FBI report on hate crimes in 2016, the city of Moorhead had one such crime reported last year.

Based on hate crimes per capita, Minnesota ranked 15th among the states and the District of Columbia with 5.18 bias crimes per 100,000 residents.

Nationwide, the latest FBI report stated that out of 15,254 participating law enforcement agencies 1,776, or 11.6 percent, reported a total of 6,121 hate-crime incidents.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that specializes in civil rights and public interest litigation, said the report indicates that the number of reported hate crimes in the nation has risen by nearly 12 percent over the past two years.

"Government studies show that the actual number of hate crimes may be as high as 250,000—more than 40 times the 6,121 incidents that the FBI reports for 2016. But the FBI figures do serve as a rough barometer for what's occurring in our country," SPLC President Richard Cohen said in a written statement.

"The significant increase over the last two years coincides with Donald Trump's racist, xenophobic campaign and its immediate aftermath," Cohen said, adding: "The words of our political leaders have consequences. President Trump has energized the radical right with his xenophobic rhetoric and has given bigots a license to act on their worst instincts. The most vulnerable people in our country are paying the price."

Dave Olson
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