California Hate Crimes Task Force Nets Results
Behind the Numbers
Hate Crimes Task Force Nets Results
Behind the Numbers
|Supervisory Special Agent Kendrick Williams,
left, and J. Stephen Tidwell, Assistant
Director in Charge of the Los Angeles field
office, during a presentation of the ADL's
Sherwood Prize in February.
FBI statistics tell us there were 7,649 hate crime incidents reported in the U.S. in 2004. Behind those numbers are hateful and hurtful crimes that exact a terrible toll not only on victims, but on families and communities.
These crimes are a top priority of the FBI, part of our broader mandate to protect the civil rights of all Americans. And that's why in communities across the nation, we are joining more and more local authorities and partners to combat the problem and roll up perpetrators.
A telling example: Riverside County, California, a mostly desert community on the southern tip of California where 16 race-related hate crimes were reported in 2004, one fewer than a year earlier. Only sprawling Los Angeles County recorded more hate crimes in the state in those two years.
Recognizing the problem, the Los Angeles FBI office in Riverside County and the Riverside County Sheriff's Department inked an informal agreement in November 2003 to create a Hate Crimes Task Force that would make the most of each others' strengths—sheriffs' knowledge of their beats and the FBI's investigative depth. Sheriff's detectives already worked with our agents and analysts on a Joint Terrorism Task Force; carving out manpower to target hate crimes made sense because of its association with domestic terrorism.
The result: "We're taking a whole lot of guys off the street," said Kendrick Williams, a supervisory special agent who previously worked as the Hate Crimes and Domestic Terrorism Program coordinator for the L.A. field office.
One of the task force's more notable coups was the arrest of 18 alleged white supremacists in November 2004 following a four-month investigation. Among those charged with gun and drug violations was a Riverside County man who in the course of helping coach his son's high school football team allegedly tried to recruit players into a heavily-armed white supremacist group. The investigation was triggered by allegations the man had given steroids to his son and another teen. A search of his home turned up a cache of weapons and ammo, body armor, drugs, and Nazi paraphernalia.
The arrests were praised by the local office of the Anti-Defamation League, which this year bestowed its "Helene & Joseph Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate" on Williams, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, and the FBI Hate Crimes Task Force, among others, for their work in the community.
"This kind of multi-agency law enforcement operation can counteract and help prevent the spread of extremist ideology," said Amanda Suskind, director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the ADL, an organization devoted to fighting bigotry.
Many FBI field offices work with local authorities on hate crimes task forces and have incorporated hate crimes working groups into their community outreach programs. The groups combine community and law enforcement resources to develop strategies to address local hate crime problems.
Williams acknowledged hate crimes significantly impact the community. And their potential nexus with domestic terrorism is troubling. "There's plenty of work out there," he said, which is why we're coordinating with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces and working closely with community partners to combat hate crimes.