Sustained Outrage

FBI: Hate crimes down in West Virginia

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Late last month, the FBI released hate crime statistics for 2009. Happily, hate crimes in West Virginia are way down from last year, from 43 total in 2008 to 24 in 2009.

Broken down by type of offense, 18 were motivated by race, three by sexual orientation, one by religion, one by ethnicity and one by disability.

The FBI breaks down its numbers by jurisdiction, so here’s a list of places where hate crimes occurred: Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Huntington, Martinsburg, Morgantown, Moundsville, South Charleston, Weirton (which had four total) and Wheeling (at the city level) and Berkeley, Jefferson, Kanawha, Monongalia, Summers and Upshur Counties.

Interestingly, Marshall University was the site of two hate crimes in 2009, both racial incidents.

Here are the FBI’s bullet points, which indicate that hate crimes were down nationwide in 2009:

  • Of the 6,598 single-bias incidents, 48.5 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 19.7 percent were motivated by a religious bias, 18.5 percent were motivated by a sexual-orientation bias, and 11.8 percent were motivated by an ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against a disability accounted for 1.5 percent of single-bias incidents.
  • There were 4,793 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons in 2009. Intimidation accounted for 45.0 percent of crimes against persons, simple assaults for 35.3 percent, and aggravated assaults for 19.1 percent. Other offenses, including nine forcible rapes and eight murders, accounted for the remainder.
  • There were 2,970 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property; most of these (83.0 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. The remaining 17.0 percent of crimes against property consisted of robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses.
  • An analysis of data for single-bias hate crime incident victims revealed that 48.8 percent were targeted because of the offender’s bias against a race, 18.9 percent because of a bias against a religious belief, 17.8 percent because of a sexual orientation bias, 13.3 percent because of an ethnicity/national origin bias, and 1.2 percent because of a disability bias.
  • Of the 6,225 known offenders, 62.4 percent were white, 18.5 percent were black, 7.3 percent were groups made up of individuals of various races (multiple races, group), 1.0 percent were American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 0.7 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander. The race was unknown for the remaining known offenders.
  • The largest percentage (31.3 percent) of hate crime incidents occurred in or near homes. In addition, 17.2 percent took place on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 11.4 percent happened at schools or colleges; 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages; and 4.3 percent in churches, synagogues, or temples. The remaining 29.7 percent of hate crime incidents took place at other specified locations, multiple locations, or other/unknown locations.


Black tar heroin: From Mexico to Huntington, W.Va.

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heroinart.jpgToday’s must read comes from the Los Angeles Times, which just published a remarkable three-part series by Sam Quinones that traces the path of a particularly powerful brand of heroin from an obscure part of Mexico all the way to Huntington, W.Va., where it led to a rash of overdose deaths in 2007.

Here are links to all three articles: A lethal business model targets Middle AmericaBlack tar moves in, and death follows (which includes extensive coverage of how the drug moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Huntington, with deadly consequences); and The good life in Xalisco can mean death in the United States.

There’s also a powerful audio slideshow by Gina Ferazzi here, in which Teddy Johnson, a Huntington plumbing contractor, talks about the death of his son, Marshall University freshman Adam Tyler Johnson, from an overdose of black tar heroin.

Part of the strategy was steer clear of major cities and aggressively market an inexpensive brand of heroin to middle- and working-class whites, Quinones reported. In addition to providing door-to-door delivery service, the dealers actively targeted recovering addicts at clinics.

The dealers have been especially successful in parts of Appalachia and the Rust Belt with high rates of addiction to OxyContin, Percocet and other prescription painkillers. They market their heroin as a cheap, potent alternative to pills.

Additionally, university towns have proved to be especially fertile markets for Xalisco heroin, Quinones noted.

Xalisco networks are decentralized, with no all-powerful boss, and they largely avoid guns and violence. Staying clear of the nation’s largest cities, where established organizations control the heroin trade, Xalisco dealers have cultivated markets in the mountain states and parts of the Midwest and Appalachia, often creating demand for heroin in cities and towns where there had been little or none. In many of those places, authorities report a sharp rise in heroin overdoses and deaths.

Before the string of fatal overdoses in 2007, “we didn’t even consider heroin an issue,” said Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook.

Xalisco dealers have been particularly successful in areas where addiction to prescription painkillers like OxyContin was widespread. Many of those addicts, mainly young middle- and working-class whites, switched to black tar, which is cheaper and more powerful.

Show us the money, part 2

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ridpath.jpegMarshall University agreed to pay a cash settlement of $200,000 to David Ridpath, the university’s former NCAA compliance director.

Last week, I wrote a post about how the terms of the settlement between Marshall and Ridpath had not yet been shared with the public. Which was mildly surprising given that more than a month had passed since U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers gave both sides 30 days to submit an agreed dismissal order.

This afternoon, Marshall spokesman Bill Bissett e-mailed me the amount. In addition, the university agreed to write a letter to the NCAA stating that Ridpath was not responsible for major violations within the athletic department, as my colleague Doug Smock detailed in February.

Former football coach Bob Pruett and several other university officials were named in Ridpath’s suit, which sought $1 million in damages.

Just as a refresher, the 1986 case Daily Gazette Co. v. Withrow requires public bodies to share with taxpayers when their money is spent on court settlements:

“A public official has a common law duty to create and maintain, for public inspection and copying, a record of the terms of settlement of litigation brought against the public official or his or her employee(s) in their official capacity.”