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Hate Crimes Down In East Bay; San Francisco Highest In California

While this Oakland Tribune report explains how the East Bay -- which includes Oakland -- has a declining hate crimes rate, this article in the San Francisco Examiner points to a finding that San Francisco, while seeing a declining rate as well, as a statistic higher than that for any city in California.

Drop in East Bay hate crimes defies trend
By Matthias Gafni, STAFF WRITER - OAKLAND TRIBUNE
Article Last Updated: 11/20/2007 08:26:24 AM PST

Despite a jump of nearly 8 percent in hate crime incidents nationwide last year, the East Bay continued to see a downward trend, according to the FBI's hate crime report released Monday.

Contra Costa and Alameda counties have seen their combined hate crime numbers drop 36 percent since 2002, according to the statistics.

Hate crimes have dropped each of those years, with a five-year low of 53 last year. The release of the 2006 hate crime statistics comes as two East Contra Costa agencies continue to investigate two high-profile alleged hate crimes
from this year.

On Aug. 22, a Brentwood family's home on Douglas Drive was ransacked and spray-painted with racial epithets. The black family's 2007 Nissan Armada SUV was stolen from the home and later found torched and stripped in Oakland. Family members said they were working and shopping when the incident occurred.

Ten days prior to the crime in Brentwood, an arson fire destroyed the mosque of the Islamic Center of the East Bay in Antioch. Three times earlier in the year, the mosque was broken into and vandalized.

"We're continuing to investigate both those cases," FBI Special Agent Joseph Shadler said Monday.

He added that both incidents are being investigated as hate crimes but declined to release any details of the ongoing investigation.

Meanwhile, Brentwood police continue working the vandalism case as well. "There's nothing new at this point. We're continuing our investigation," Sgt. Mark Misquez said.

"Nobody's ruled out, and we're looking at all angles."

Brentwood police classified the incident as a hate crime from the start and notified the FBI hate crimes unit, which has left most of the investigating to local officers, Misquez said.

The mosque arson case is still under investigation, Antioch police said. Since the fire, police have interviewed persons of interest whom they say are responsible for other arsons in the area, but no arrests have been made.
Solving hate crimes can be difficult, Special Agent Shadler said.

"It's a very touchy thing. There are a lot of things people consider hate crimes that are not (by statute) hate crimes," he said. "In order to prove something as a hate crime, you have to prove there was some other intent besides the activity itself.
"For instance, somebody might get beat up (who's) a minority, but that doesn't mean it wasn't just someone in the wrong place at the wrong time," the FBI agent said. "It's one thing to prove someone intended to beat somebody; it's another thing to prove the beating was intended as a hate crime."

The city of Berkeley reported 10 hate crimes in 2006, the highest number in the East Bay. In the past five years, Berkeley has registered the highest number of hate crimes in that region.

"I think people in Berkeley are more educated in terms of recognition of the law protecting folks from that sort of treatment, and they're willing to take the appropriate action," Berkeley police Lt. Wesley Hester said.

His department also follows a tight hate crime reporting protocol and the community "feels more comfortable reporting it to police" in Berkeley, he said. In California, 728 agencies participated in the FBI report, with 250 submitting incident reports. The state reported 1,297 hate crime incidents for 2006, the highest number in the country. California also has the largest population in the report.
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