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In WNY and across state, hate crimes increase

The number of hate crimes reported in Western New York increased last year, mimicking a similar statewide trend, according to a new report from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.

Police agencies in the eight counties reported 56 hate crime incidents in 2009, up from 46 in 2008, the agency said Thursday.

Police departments in Erie County reported 47 of the incidents, while four counties -- Chautauqua, Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming -- reported no incidents or arrests, according to the report.

The Buffalo Police Department reported 32 hate crimes for the year.

Statewide, the number of reported hate crimes -- an incident in which the assailant's intent stems from a bias based on things including gender, religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation -- grew 14 percent, from 599 to 683.

The overall increase in the number of reports was likely due both to more actual incidents as well as better training to help law enforcement officers identify such cases, said Janine Kava, spokeswoman for the agency.

Niagara County Sheriff James R. Voutour said he believes the increase is due to increased training.

"I know that we make a more concerted effort to report it more accurately," Voutour said.

The figures are based on reports sent to the state from police agencies, based on their determinations in individual cases, as well as state law. The final disposition of a case or whether a victim claimed bias was a factor does not determine classification as a hate crime.

Here are some of the other findings of the new report:

*For the 2009 incidents, 87 cases had final dispositions as of October of this year. In about 28 percent of those 87 cases, a person was both charged and convicted of a hate crime.

*For those same 87 cases, almost a third of those arrested for a hate crime received either jail or prison time; another third received conditional discharges.

*The five counties of New York City accounted for 40 percent of all hate crimes in the state in 2009.

*Of all the hate crimes committed against a person rather than against a property, 86 percent were intimidation or simple assault.

*Religious bias was the most common type of reported hate crime last year (43 percent), followed by racial/ethnic bias (38 percent) and sexual orientation (17 percent).

Seventeen of the state's 62 counties did not report any incidents or arrests last year.

Hate crime numbers are required to be reported under the state Hate Crimes Act of 2000.

e-mail: abesecker@buffnews.com

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