DENVER — The Denver Police Department documented an increase in bias-motivated crimes in 2019. However, it is unclear whether there are more crimes occurring or simply more reports of them.
According to Sgt. Anthony Parisi, who leads the Bias-Motivated Investigative Unit, there have been 61 cases so far this year, including incidents related to race, religion and sexual orientation.
Sixteen of the cases were labeled “Anti-Black or African American.” Nine cases were labeled “Anti-Hispanic or Latino.”
There were 64 total cases in 2018 and 62 in 2017.
In 2016, the Denver Police Department tracked 41 cases.
Parisi’s unit was created in May to help address the needs of the community and improve communication.
“The fear of crime is a driver that sends people into their homes and they can’t be active members of the community,” said Parisi. “That is something we as a police department can help facilitate – that you are safe here in our community, and we do hold those responsible (for their crimes).”
Parisi said many cases are not tied to specific hate organizations but rather start with a dispute that escalates, causing someone’s bias to surface.
“There needs to be zero tolerance for hate,” said Parisi.
In June, Ryan Austin Lee was sentenced to five years in prison after he punched another driver and kicked that man’s passenger while shouting racial slurs. He was also convicted of chasing a family with a hammer while shouting racial threats.
According to Aurora police Officer Matthew Longshore, the Aurora Police Department tracked 20 cases in 2017 and 18 in 2018. In 2019, the department has investigated five cases.
Approximately 716,000 people live in the city of Denver; about 374,000 live in Aurora.
Longshore did not know whether the two departments use the same criteria when tracking and documenting bias-motivated crimes.
Lori Jane Gliha wrote this report.