Ohio hate crime rate more than double that of national average

Updated: Jan. 24, 2018 at 10:58 PM EST
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BEACHWOOD, OH (WOIO) - A racist slur written in permanent black marker covered a Stow woman's front door.

"You could definitely see the N for sure and then the rest was across the entire door," said Esayla Williams.

On the east side, police reported two more incidents of discriminatory crimes. Two separate police departments stepped in after Jewish centers received anti-Semitic voicemails last week. 

The messages were left at Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights and the Heights Jewish Synagogue in University Heights.

Police call the voicemails "ethnic intimidation" and "harassing communication." Investigators have not figured out yet if the voicemails are related.

"It's under-reported. There's no question, and the reason it's under-reported is because people don't think anything will happen," said attorney Ian Friedman.

According to the FBI, a hate crime is a "criminal offense against a person or property motivated...by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity."

No matter the offense, Friedman said hate crimes can't stand alone as a criminal charge in Ohio.

"It'll enhance a penalty at the misdemeanor level and at the felony level. What it is is a sentencing factor and it gives the judge greater discretion about what he or she is going to do with the time of sentencing," he said.

Friedman said, compared to other states, Ohio's hate crime laws are, at best, on par, but there are certainly areas where the state lags.

"If you look at just the statistics on hate crimes we're almost three times higher than the national average. 4.1 persons per 100,000 are victims of hate crimes. Whereas the national average is 1.8," said Friedman.

Friedman said he's not sure why Ohio has higher hate crime stats. He said one area the state doesn't have protections in place is for the LGBTQ community.

Currently, there is legislation proposed to include sexual orientation as a hate crime.

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