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Racial bias seen amid rise in Vegas-area hate crime reports

March 1, 2021 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Activists in Las Vegas are attributing a rise in reports of hate crimes against Black residents in 2020 to an increase in racism nationally and a willingness by victims to document incidents.

Police found that among victims of 49 hate crimes reported last year in and around Las Vegas, 34 were based on race and 21 of those victims were Black, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Roxann McCoy, NAACP chapter president in Las Vegas, said the local office received threats prior to the November election. She told the newspaper she believes rhetoric from former President Donald Trump and Black Lives Matter demonstrations contributed to a general rise in racism.

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Nationally, 48% of 4,930 hate crime reports to the FBI in 2019 were about Blacks, making up the largest classification of victims, according to data provided by nearly 16,000 police departments.

In southern Nevada, reporting agencies included North Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Henderson and Clark County school police. FBI hate crime data from 2020 was not available.

Las Vegas police Capt. Yasenia Yatomi told the Review-Journal there were 16 hate crime cases reported last year involving 21 victims, compared with nine cases, each with one victim, the year before. She said reports are taken seriously and investigators consider everyone associated in an event who may have been affected.

“People should not be hesitant to report a crime,” Yatomi said.

Nicole Williams, a Las Vegas member of the National Action Network, a nonprofit civil rights group, said residents are reporting more instances of discrimination and prejudice because they want to hold perpetrators responsible.

“We are more aware, and we’re taking action when things have happened, and we’re calling them out on it,” Williams said.

Williams also serves as the local LGBTQIA chair for the New York-based action network on issues facing residents.

Hate crime cases reported to Las Vegas police last year included a racial slur scratched on the hood of a vehicle, a woman hospitalized after a man injured her with his cart in a grocery store line, and a woman followed in her car by a man who threw water, yelled racial slurs and made gorilla noises toward her at stoplights, the Review-Journal reported.

Although a person of interest had been identified in three cases, none resulted in arrests, the newspaper said.

Local activist and political podcaster Joseph Bryant said some residents report hate crimes using social media or by reaching out to local groups, such as National Action Network, or to social activist and minister Vance “Stretch” Sanders of New Era Church.

“We organize around them,” Bryant said of actions including parking lot protests.