Incidents Revealing Bias: Anchorage, 1999

Incidents Revealing Bias: Anchorage, 1999

Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. (Spring 2001). "Incidents Revealing Bias: Anchorage, 1999." Alaska Justice Forum 18(1): 8. Anchorage Police Department is the only law enforcement agency in the state currently participating in the FBI hate crime data collection effort. This article describes the five incidents from APD records reported under the FBI protocol as hate crimes in 1999. Hate or bias crimes per se do not exist under Alaska law, and so none of the incidents discussed was charged or prosecuted as a hate crime. In fact, only one of these five incidents described-an assault case-resulted in arrest.

The Anchorage Police Department is the only law enforcement agency in the state currently participating in the FBI hate crime data collection effort. It is important to note that while these incidents are reported under the FBI protocol as hate crimes, with that determination being made by APD records personnel, hate or bias crimes per se do not exist under Alaska law and so none of the incidents discussed in the following paragraphs was charged or prosecuted as a hate crime. In fact, in most of the 1999 incidents, the circumstances did not coalesce in any chargeable offense.

Table 4 shows that most of the incidents labeled as hate crimes in Anchorage during 1999 involved intimidation with an anti-racial or anti-religious cast. Two of the incidents were described as exhibiting an anti-Jewish bias; two, an anti-black; and one, an anti-white. Four of the incidents were reported under the FBI category of intimidation, which, in general, corresponds to harassment under Alaska statutes. One was reported as an aggravated assault. The police made five arrests in connection with the assault case. With the other four incidents no arrests were made. As details from the APD police reports filed in the aftermath of each incident illustrate, all of the situations showed overtones of violence but in only one did actual violence occur.

Table 4. Hate Crime Incidents Reported in Anchorage, 19995-1999

In the most serious case, a group of young black males—both juveniles and adults— used pellet guns in harassing a number of adults and children in Campbell Park. One suspect was reported as yelling "This isn't whitey's park." The guns were fired multiple times at different people. No one was injured, although some bicycles were damaged. All five suspects were taken into custody, and the adults were charged with assault.

Another reported incident suggested an on-going situation involving juveniles and racial conflict. Several young white males identified as part of a south Anchorage gang harassed a group of black juveniles with racial slurs, shouting that they were "here in force to clean the scum out of the mall." The security guard at the business apparently did not report the incident until almost three weeks after it occurred. The investigation revealed that some of the reputed gang members had prior arrest records and that some had already been apprehended at the same location for carrying weapons. When interviewed, one of the suspects described a prior confrontation in which black juveniles in a car had fired a shot at members of the white group. The shooting had occurred about two weeks before the incident being investigated and did not seem to have been previously reported. In response to the latter incident, the police increased patrol coverage in the area and suspended the case.

In a third incident, a student at the Whaley Center verbally harassed a black student through the use of racial epithets and by claiming membership in the Ku Klux Klan. The police took statements, collected evidence that included a poster promoting the Klan, and spoke with the mother of the student who made the racial slurs.

The last two of the five hate incidents reported essentially involve the same situation, one that evolved over two weeks. The suspect was reported to have made threats against his former employer, threatening that he would "take care of that…Jew" when he got his guns out of hock. He made similar comments several times over approximately a two-week period, and two police reports were filed. The complainant said that he had experienced threats before but that the anti-Jewish bias of these disturbed him more. When interviewed by APD, the suspect denied making the threats. A phone message tape obtained by the police contained anti-Jewish slurs but no explicit threats. The suspect was told to stay away from the complainant.

As these descriptions drawn from the APD police reports show, most of the incidents reported to the FBI in 1999 for showing a hate bias were limited in scope. Only one of these five incidents resulted in arrests—the Campbell Park assault case. It was not possible to determine the outcome of those arrests or whether the described racial comments figured to any degree in a trial.