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Police and City Leaders Wow to Prosecute Hate Crimes
By MELISSA EVANS
The Daily Review, Fremont, California, Mar. 27, 2003
"In an attempt to curb backlash against Arabs and South Asians as America's war with Iraq continues, police and city leaders issued a joint statement Wednesday saying they will not tolerate hate crimes. Police chiefs from Fremont, Union City and Newark said all crimes committed against Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and others because of their race or religion will be investigated aggressively. Despite fears that may exist, victims of abuse have a right and a duty to contact police, Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler told about two dozen reporters, civil rights leaders and community members at City Hall. 'You should not live in fear,' he said. 'You have rights guaranteed under the Constitution. . . . You must give us the opportunity to bring (those who commit hate crimes) to justice.' "
"Officials said no hate crimes have occurred in the Tri-City area since the conflict in Iraq began a week ago, but some audience members told a different story. Upinder Kaur, a Fremont resident and Sikh, said she returned home from work Thursday and found glass scattered on her front yard, along with condoms and beer bottles. She said racial slurs were heard by neighbors, indicating the vandalism was racially motivated. Kaur said she reported the crime to police but hasn't received a response. Police, however, have no record of a report being made, Detective Bill Veteran said."
"Officials continue to meet with members of area mosques to calm fears. Extra patrol checks also are being conducted at mosques, the Fremont Sikh temple and area Hindu temples, Veteran said. Many in the audience echoed Kaur's fear, saying they do worry, particularly about their children. City leaders assured attendees that they are doing all they can to discourage hate and promote tolerance. 'We recognize that a hate crime affects an entire community,' Newark Police Chief John Robertson said, adding that officers recently completed cultural diversity training and frequently patrol schools."
"F.B.I. spokesman David Miller also told audience members that 'hate crime and civil rights investigations are a priority for the F.B.I.' Miller said the San Francisco F.B.I. office has not investigated any hate-related crimes in the past week. City council members in attendance - including Steve Cho, Dominic Dutra and Bob Wasserman of Fremont and Alberto Torrico of Newark - applauded their respective police agencies. 'I'm proud that we have been proactive,' Torrico said. 'Our officers have taken out a message of tolerance and diversity.' Many audience members said the public statement of support Wednesday is reassuring."
" 'When we have an official policy of zero tolerance, that's the strongest tool we have for all our faith communities,' said Waheed Momand, an Afghan immigrant and co-founder of Fremont's Afghan Coalition. The press conference was organized by five civil rights groups, including World Alliance for Humanity, the Interfaith Freedom Foundation and Justice for New Americans."