Local officials are urging Indiana lawmakers to pass a hate crimes law this session.

In a letter to Indiana Senate Leader Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, Bloomington officials and others call on lawmakers to support hate crime legislation that would “allow judges to increase sentencing when it has been determined that a crime has been motivated by bias against a victim’s characteristics that include, but are not limited to, their race, religion, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, housing status or status as a veteran.”

Some notable signatories include people with the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, the city council and clerk, the Monroe County Council and the Monroe County Board of Commissioners.

“Hate crimes and prosecuting them are sadly topical in Indiana in 2019,” Mayor John Hamilton said during a Facebook live town hall meeting Wednesday.

During the event, Congregation Beth Shalom president Lesley Levin said any law that passes must also address reporting requirements and enforcement.

Bloomington Police Chief Mike Diekhoff said Indiana law enforcement agencies currently are required to report hate crimes that occur in their community to state and federal databases. However, Diekhoff said, Bloomington is one of the few agencies that do so. And even though it’s required, he said there are no penalties if an agency does not report hate crimes.

Bloomington Human Rights Commission member Barbara McKinney said the city passed a human rights ordinance that tracks reports and provides ways for citizens to report them and offer support to victims.

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