Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Dealing better with bias crimes

Groups want city educated

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — Two groups are working on a plan to help the city respond to bias crimes.

        With help from the Oxford branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Oxford Community Relations Commission will form a task force to develop a community-response manual.

        It will provide consistency in dealing with response to the incidents, victim support and other matters.

        “Right now, we react,” said Vanessa R. Cummings, president of Oxford NAACP. “We need a process so that when something happens, we'll know how to proceed. For example, how do we get the word out? How do we deal with counseling? When do we alert the police?”

        She said the idea wasn't prompted by any particular incident It came from a de sire to improve the way the community and government deal with bias crimes.

        Specifically, the groups want to improve the methods and procedures for collecting information and reporting on such incidents.

        “We want to educate the community on appropriate responses to hate-violence incidents and activities, and provide necessary and appropriate assistance and support to victims,” Ms. Cummings said.

        Meanwhile, the Community Relations Commission will assess the city's ability to provide support for victims, collect data, analyze trends and respond to incidents, said Sallie A. Killian, a commission member.

        The group plans to meet next month to organize the task force.

Ways to react
        A bias crime or incident is motivated by hostility over race, color, ethnic background, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, and sexual orientation (real or perceived). Such acts — including harassment and physical force — may be directed against a person, family or property.

        She said city and Miami University officials have agreed to respond to bias and hate acts in a number of ways. They include: training law enforcement officers how to handle the incidents; collecting and reporting information to a central task force; enlisting help from volunteers; educating the public on bias crimes; and assisting the victims.

        “Our goal is to improve the way our community responds to bias crimes and incidents, and to provide a community-wide response,” Ms. Cummings said.

        Though Oxford is a rela tively quiet town, bad things can happen.

        In 1998, an 18-year-old Oxford man and a 19-year-old Loveland resident were convicted for attacking a 19-year-old Miami University student on the street. The suspects were charged with striking the black victim with an ax handle, fracturing his skull and breaking the bone under his eye.

        The white attackers were accused of yelling racial and anti-gay slurs during the beating. Authorities said the victim was not gay.


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