January 18, 2008

El Grupo wants to raise $10,000 for hate crime tips

“BASTA YA!” say North County Latino groups whose goal is to have $10,000 on hand at all times to offer as a reward to anyone with information leading to the arrest of those responsible for hate crimes.

“It’s no coincidence that hates crimes against Latinos are on the rise in San Diego, given the increasingly rabid rhetoric we’re hearing throughout the county,” says Bill Flores, spokesperson for a coalition of North County groups known simply as El Grupo. Flores explains that direct appeals to prejudice and the exploitation of legitimate concerns about immigration from south of the border, the oversimplifying of issues, and the twisting of facts have had the effecct of inciting violence against Latinos.

This past November, the FBI reported that in San Diego County, hate crimes based on ethnicity doubled from 2005 to 2006. Although offi cial statistics for 2007 are not yet available, the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes prosecutor says it is mostly Latinos who are being targeted. Law enforcement estimates that Latinos—undocumented, documented, and U.S. citizens alike— were the victims in approximately three-quarters of the reported hate crimes committed here last year.

“The immigration debate has gone so far beyond the boundaries of a civil and fair debate that even U.S. citizens are targeted,” says Flores. “Basta ya!” [Loosely translated, “Basta ya!” means “Enough!”] Rewards are one way of getting useful tips about hate crimes. Last year’s hate crimes against Latinos include the wholesale vandalizing of migrant encampments in Rancho Penasquitos and McGonigle Canyon, and El Grupo helped raise a $10,000 reward to solve those cases. The reward is still unclaimed, but El Grupo is confi dent that useful tips will be provided, especially since tipsters can remain anonymous and still received the reward. Flores acknowledges that there were a few months’ lag time between those crimes and the offer. “From now on, we want to be in a position to provide an incentive early on,” says Flores.

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