TIME

Why Hate Crimes Persist More Than Violent Crimes

There's enough evidence to charge Frazier Glenn Cross for a hate crime after Sunday's deadly shooting at a Jewish community center and senior living facility. Here's why crimes based on biases can be harder to combat than other violent crimes

Correction appended: April 15, 2014.

Law-enforcement officials announced on Monday that they had enough evidence to charge Frazier Glenn Cross for a hate crime in the shooting at a Jewish community center and senior living facility that left three people dead.

“We have unquestionably determined through the work of law enforcement that this was a hate crime,” Overland Park police chief John Douglass told the Associated Press. Cross, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan, was reportedly heard shouting “Heil Hitler” from the back of a police car while in custody.

Hate crimes, which are motivated by biases based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin and disability, have dropped in the U.S. in recent years. In 2012, there were 5,796 incidents, compared with 6,222 reports in 2011, according to the FBI. Racially motivated violations still make up nearly half of all hate crimes, followed by 20% that are tied to sexual orientation.

(MORE: Kansas City Shooting Is Hate of an Ancient Vintage)

While violent crime in the U.S. has dropped as well, the decline in hate crimes hasn’t been as rapid and may be harder to combat, says Jack McDevitt, associate dean for research in the college of social science and humanities at Northeastern University. That’s because neighborhoods in the U.S. are only becoming more diverse, which means that locally and even personally perceived biases or injustices may become more glaring to certain individuals. “I fear [such hate crimes] will increase,” McDevitt says. “There are people out there who see increasing diversity as a threat, then they strike out.”

Contrary to what sociologists believed for years — that hate crimes are fueled by economic pressures as new groups received benefits or better jobs – the driving force may be something more basic to human nature: our tendency to feel threatened in the face of change. “One of the major sources of hate crime is what is perceived of as rapid in-migration of other groups into formerly racially, ethnically or religiously homogenous areas,” says Donald Green, a professor of political science at Columbia University, who has studied this connection extensively. “From the standpoint of a hate crime, the tipping point is the very first group that moves in.” As people feel threatened and believe they need to “defend” their neighborhood or way or life, that’s enough to prompt vandalism or violent crime, he says. In contrast, in issues involving housing regulations or schooling, about a quarter or a third of the population needs to change before a threat is perceived and acted upon.

(MORE: 3 Dead After Shootings at Kansas Jewish Facilities)

Antiracial crimes committed by far-right extremists are more likely in communities with a denser Jewish population, according to a U.S. Extremist Crime Database study, led by Joshua Freilich of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Roberta Belli of United Nationals Department of Safety and Security, and Steven Chermak of Michigan State University. For example, hate crimes against Jewish communities are more common in states with higher Jewish populations; in New York, where they make up 9% of the state’s population, there were 248 such incidents in 2012, a nearly 30% increase from 2011. One reason, Freilich hypothesized in an email to TIME, is the possibility that “far-right racist leaders focused their efforts on counties where Jews were visible, and inspired their supporters residing in those counties to lash out and attack the far-right’s ideological enemies.”

Such patterns of scapegoating and blame may make hate crimes frustratingly difficult to curb downward, says McDevitt, and that means that tragedies like the shootings in Overland Park, Kans., may continue to percolate across the country.

Correction: The original version of this article misstated Steven Chermak’s institutional affiliation. He is affiliated with Michigan State University.

TIME Religion

Overland Park Shooting: A Church Responds to Hate

Three Killed As Gunman Attacks Jewish Centers In Kansas
A police car is seen at the entrance of the Jewish Community Center after three were killed when a gunman opened fire on April 13, 2014 in Overland Park, Kans. Jamie Squire—Getty Images

Faith leaders respond to the shooting at a Jewish Community Center in Kansas City

St Thomas the Apostle lies within a mile of the sites where a shooter targeted Jewish communities yesterday, killing a man, a woman, and a teenaged boy from our neighborhood of Overland Park. Our members attend activities at the Jewish Community Center, and we have had members in residence at Village Shalom. Many of us know people who are affected, and some of us knew the victims and their families. For all its size and population, Overland Park is a small town; we know each other, and we care for one another.

As we heard the first terrible reports, we determined to hold a vigil – to offer a place to come together immediately as a community. Rabbi Jacques Cukiekorn of Temple Israel helped us plan, with hymns and prayers from Judaism and Christianity. We announced by local news that we would open our doors, and hundreds came: families and neighbors, and dozens of youth who had put on school shirts and theatre shirts in support of the young man who had been killed.

We offered prayers – not only for those who had been killed but that such broken places might be healed, and that we might have the courage to respond not by learning to hate, but by choosing to love more fiercely. We prayed that we might act to build a more just world.

But surely the most powerful moment came when a woman named Mindy Corporon explained who she was: the daughter of one man who’d been killed, and the mother of another – a teenage boy.

Mindy spoke to our assembled neighborhood, thanking everyone for coming. She explained the random events that caused her father to be the one taking her son to this audition, as the rest of the family juggled sports and other activities, finally summarizing it with profound words: “We were in life; we were having life. And I want you all to know that we’re going to have more life, and I want you all to have more life.” These were the words of a woman who had lost both father and son only hours before.

Our Christian community had entered Holy Week that morning, with a service of palms remembering that Jesus entered into Jerusalem. Later this week, we will hold services on Good Friday – a day that has been used in history for evil by other Christians, who encouraged it to be an occasion for violence against Jews. It is a sober reality that Christian churches have their place among those who have helped create the terrible lies that teach hate and violence.

Our parish and Temple Israel have worked against this idea of division, and worked to build on what unites us. When Temple Israel began, we offered them space at St Thomas for their Sabbath worship until they could build their own synagogue. Rabbi Jacques has taught classes about Judaism for our members, and co-led a trip to Israel with members of both communities. Two years ago, Temple Israel returned to hold their Passover Seder meal in our church as we held our Good Friday services – two traditions in friendship on a day that had formerly taught hate, celebrating our faiths in two rooms under a common roof. As our service ended, they welcomed a number of us to join them in their celebration. This is the strength that we leaned on together yesterday, as violence targeting Jewish centers killed Christians. And we will continue to build up that strength.

The Jewish Passover begins this week, and we will again open our space to our neighbors. The Christian Holy Week continues as well, and Good Friday will be a moment when we repent of our role in the sins of the world, and face the stark truth that when God offered a message of love, humanity offered violence for it.

But we will also remember in our celebration of Easter that when we offered violent death, God responded instead with love: raising Jesus from that death and showing that the message of God’s love was not destroyed by our violence, and neither was the commandment to love one another. We held vigil together, because love has not ended, even in the face of grief.

“We are still in life. We will have life, and we are going to have more life, and we want you all to have more life as well.”

The Reverend Gar Demo and the Reverend Benedict Varnum are Episcopal priests serving at St Thomas the Apostle in the Diocese of Kansas, and worked to organize a vigil service in response to the shootings in Overland Park on Sunday.

TIME Crime

Kansas City Shooting Suspect to Face Hate Crime Charges

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora, Missouri, is led to a police car after his arrest following shooting incidents which killed three people at two Jewish centers on Sunday in Overland Park, south of Kansas City, Kansas in a still image from video April 13, 2014.
Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, of Aurora, Missouri, is led to a police car after his arrest following shooting incidents which killed three people at two Jewish centers on Sunday in Overland Park, south of Kansas City, Kansas in a still image from video April 13, 2014. Reuters

Local authorities say they have enough evidence to categorize Kansas City-area shooting spree by a known white supremacist as a hate crime

The suspect accused of killing three people in a shooting rampage outside of a Jewish center and a retirement community Sunday will face hate crime charges, authorities said Monday.

“We have unquestionably determined through the work of law enforcement that this was a hate crime,” Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass told the Associated Press.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement earlier on Monday saying federal prosecutors would work with their local counterparts “to determine whether the federal hate crimes statute is implicated in this case.”

Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, was arrested Sunday in an elementary school parking lot after he shot two people at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan. before driving to a nearby retirement community, where he shot a third. Cross reportedly shouted “Heil Hitler!” while in police custody.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, identified Cross as a well-known white supremacist and a former “grand dragon” of a wing of the Ku Klux Klan. Cross is also known to have contributed writings to the Vanguard News Network, an anti-Semitic organization that he supported financially.

All three people Cross killed were Christians, the AP reports.

[AP]

TIME Kansas City shooting

Kansas City Shooting Is Hate of an Ancient Vintage

Classmates of one of the victims hug during a prayer service for the victims of the Jewish Community Center shootings in Leawood, Kans., on April 13, 2014 John Sleezer—Kansas City Star/MCT/Getty Images

Though the police remain cautious on motive, for many the attack at a Jewish community center outside Kansas City leaves little doubt over the assailant's anti-Semitic views

At a press conference four hours after three people were killed in shootings at two Jewish facilities near Kansas City, Mo., authorities cautiously noted that they did not yet know the motive. Only after prompting did John Douglass, chief of police in the sprawling suburb of Overland Park, Kans., say “We are investigating it as a hate crime.”

At 10:15 p.m. E.T., when I asked Douglass over the phone why the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City (JCC) was targeted, he reiterated, very reasonably, “We’re being very careful not to put out anything that we don’t know for certain.”

But one look at the campus of the JCC leaves little doubt. Set well back from nearby thoroughfares, nestled behind berms on the campus of Sprint’s corporate headquarters, the center is not the sort of place that a gunman finds at random.

And if history teaches anything, it’s the sad fact that when a gunman seeks out a Jewish center and opens fire, the motive is hate of an ancient vintage.

Three people were dead on Sunday, the eve of Passover, two more had narrowly escaped being wounded (in one case, a student’s backpack was hit), and a suspect was in custody. Apparently, the gunman first murdered a woman on the parking lot of Village Shalom, a Jewish-oriented retirement development, then drove a short distance north to kill a 14-year-old boy and his grandfather at the JCC.

A short time later, police arrested a bearded man in his 70s outside an elementary school a mile from the second crime scene. Reporters at the scene said he smiled as he was taken away from a white sedan with a Missouri license plate, and that he may have called out “Heil Hitler!”

Roiling dark rain clouds swept over the neighborhood as police and FBI agents began gathering evidence. They spoke to witnesses who told them that the JCC facility was bustling on Sunday at about 1 p.m. Members were working out in the fitness center, actors were rehearsing for an upcoming performance of To Kill a Mockingbird, and throngs of teenagers from throughout the metro area were gathering to audition for the KC SuperStar talent competition.

“There were tons of kids because this was about to start at 1 o’clock,” competition publicist Ruth Bigus told the Kansas City Star.

One of the victims — identified by the Kansas City Star as Eagle Scout Reat Griffin Underwood, a high school freshman — may have been on his way to the tryouts. The gunman used a shotgun to kill the boy and his grandfather, identified by the Star as William Lewis Corporon, a physician, as they arrived in the parking lot.

Overland Park police have long been sensitive to the possibility of anti-Semitic violence in the area, which is home to a number of synagogues and other prominent Jewish institutions. An off-duty police officer was reportedly stationed at the JCC and may have played a role in ending the rampage. Police chief Douglass reported that the gunman may have had other weapons besides the shotgun — suggesting that he might have planned to kill more people.

As the suspect fled, staff at the community center put a well-rehearsed disaster plan into action. Dozens of people were ushered into inside rooms as outside doors were locked tight. Young musicians huddled on the auditorium floor, while others crowded into locker rooms. Given the ominous spring weather, many people initially believed they were responding to a tornado warning; only after about 15 minutes were they told about the shootings.

Douglass confirmed that an off-duty officer was at work inside the JCC at the time of the shooting. The officer helped guide people to safety, then rushed outside as the gunman was driving away. By then, calls were flooding into 911. “We realized we had an active shooter in the vicinity, so the protocol is to flood the zone with first responders,” said the chief. “We quickly found the suspect sitting in his car at the school parking lot.”

Officials at the Church of the Resurrection, a large United Methodist congregation in nearby Leawood, Kans., reported on Sunday evening that Corporon, who died at the scene of the crime, and Underwood, who died as surgeons struggled to save him at Overland Park Regional Medical Center, were members of their church. There was nothing remotely surprising about the fact that a Christian teenager and his grandfather were visiting the JCC. Thousands of Kansas City residents of every faith (and no faith at all) are made welcome each year at the center’s many public events.

Unfortunately, that spirit of community means nothing to a bigot with murder in his heart. He sees the word Jewish and the word shalom (peace), and that’s all he needs to know.

Chief Douglass was being a careful professional when he said “It’s too early in the investigation to try to label it. We know it’s a vicious act of violence.” Douglass continued, but before calling it a hate crime “we’re going to have to know more about it.”

For the rest of us, the facts speak for themselves.

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