Iowa City Police host forum on hate crimes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City Police host forum on hate crimes

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An increase in hate-related incidents has led local police departments, the FBI, and the NAACP to team up.

On Monday, a hate crime forum was held in Iowa City by the Iowa City Police Department. On top of FBI and NAACP representatives, officials from the Johnson County Attorney's Office, United States Attorney's Office, and the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety, were also on hand to address the growing concerns of hate-related incidents.

Most recently, a report of Nazi graffiti was reported at the University of Iowa that damaged unity-themed murals.

Iowa City police officer, Derek Frank, said the forum was an opportunity for people to have a conversation about hate crimes and what can be considered one, something he says can cause confusion.

"We see that quite a bit. A lot of people have misconceptions about what exactly is a hate crime, and it's spelled out specifically in the state code; what is a hate crime and where that can be applied.  And it's not as wide as a lot of people believe," Frank said.

Johnson County Attorney, Janet Lyness, was on hand to clear up that confusion. During the forum, Lyness outlined the four crimes that can fall under a hate crime: assault, arson, criminal mischief, and trespassing.

"Under Iowa law, these are the only four crimes that can be enhanced because of them being committed because of somebody's protected classification," Lyness said. Lyness went on to say the law, passed in 1992, is outdated and cited that harassment should be a crime considered under it.

Frank said it was also an opportunity to showcase how the various departments investigate hate crimes.

"We go beyond simply just filing a report," he said.

During the forum, Iowa City Police Chief, Jody Matherly, said it's important for people to continue calling them, even if someone is unsure of whether or not it falls under a hate crime.

"It's so important to take it off your shoulders, your frustration and being mad at the incident.  And call us. Put it on our shoulders," he said.

While the group hoped for the forum to be informative, it was also an opportunity to send a larger message to the community.

"This is not a place where that is welcome. This is not a place that's going to sit down and just let it happen. People are going to be involved, people are going to stand up for themselves, rightfully so. That's the biggest thing to take away from this, is that this community is not going to stand for any kind of hate speech or hate crimes," Frank said.

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