DENVER — Colorado leaders, law enforcement officials and advocacy groups met for a roundtable discussion Wednesday in response to hate crimes, which continue to climb in the state and across the country.
Reported hate crimes hit an all-time high in Colorado in 2022, and while the date is not yet complete, officials said 2023 looks like it will end either on par or greater.
State Senator Rhonda Fields convened the roundtable discussion, along with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, in response to growing fears being raised by her constituents.
FBI: Colorado saw record number of reported hate crimes in 2021
Fields started the discussion by asking every participant to share their first experience with hate in their lives as they were introduced. Every single presenter had an experience to share, many occurring in elementary and middle school.
"I wanted them to reflect back on what was your first encounter with being victimized or when hate was demonstrated towards you," Fields said. "It was really fascinating to hear how early people are exposed to hate or being victimized."
The bulk of the discussion centered around the statistics of growing reported hate crimes and how to address them. While overall crime in Colorado has fallen since 2021, hate crimes are still on the rise, with race and sexual orientation being the leading categories for victims.
Antisemitic hate has seen a huge spike in recent months following the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, Anti-Defamation League spokesperson Scott Levin said.
"We're seeing, in our office, a rise of about 400% in the amount of contacts we're getting on a daily basis from people who are either the targets of hate or have witnessed hate that's gone on," Levin said. "Across the country, as well as here in Denver, Colorado, we're seeing an increase of over 300% of antisemitic incidents that are taking place."
Hate crimes see another increase, new data indicate
While reported hate crimes trending upwards, the data tells us it is still being greatly underreported. A survey conducted by Hate Free Colorado found that only 18% of victims reported to law enforcement.
The leaders and advocates at the roundtable agreed that making victims feel safe coming forward needs to be their top priority going forward.
"I'm not surprised," Fields said of the crimes being underreported. "And I don't know how we get people to report it more. And then, do we have the resources and the capability to respond to it? So we have more work to do."