Justice Department adds Sikhs, Mormons to hate crime stats
Washington • The Justice Department will begin keeping numbers on hate crimes committed against Sikhs, Mormons and five other groups, in connection with Monday's one-year anniversary of the killing of six Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek, Wis.
Attorney General Eric Holder made the announcement Friday in a blog post, which The Associated Press obtained ahead of its official release. Holder said FBI Director Robert Mueller had approved a recommendation from the agency's advisory policy board to track hate crimes against Sikhs, Hindus, Arabs, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Orthodox Christians.
"Having accurate information allows law enforcement leaders and policymakers to make informed decisions about the allocation of resources and priorities decisions that impact real people, and affect public safety in every neighborhood and community," Holder wrote in the blog post. "Today, I am proud to report that we have taken steps to collect this information."
The addition had long been sought by members of the Sikh community.
Holder also announced a $500,000 grant for mental health and trauma services to those affected by the Oak Creek shooting, including survivors and family members.
A year ago Monday, Wade Michael Page, who had ties to white supremacist groups, walked into the Milwaukee-area Sikh Temple of Wisconsin and opened fire. He killed six priests and worshippers and wounded five others, and then fatally shot himself after he was wounded in the parking lot by a police sniper. Holder Friday called the attack a "heinous act of hatred and terror."
Pardeep Kaleka, son of former temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, who died in the massacre, said he appreciated anything that can draw attention to people being victimized for things like their race, religion or gender.
"Progress is sort of a climb, and it takes a step at a time. This is one of those steps toward progress," he said.
Amardeep Singh, program director of the Sikh Coalition, said that while he welcomed the announcement as a "critical first step," the underlying conditions that caused the killings remain.
"The last year has once again seen violent shootings and beatings of Sikhs throughout the country," he said. "It will take more than tracking hate crime statistics to stem the tide."
Holder wrote that since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Justice Department has investigated more than 800 incidents involving violence, threats, assaults, vandalism and arson targeting Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, South Asians and those perceived to be members of these groups.