Hate crimes down in Florida, Monroe County

A new statewide report on hate crime shows fewer offenses, both in Florida and Monroe County.

The Hate Crimes in Florida report, issued Wednesday, covers calendar year 2013 and counts 124 incidents in Florida that qualify under the state hate-crime legislation. That is the lowest number going back to 2002, and a 27 percent decline from the 170 hate crimes reported in 2012.

In Monroe County, three hate crimes were reported in 2013, half the six crimes listed in 2012. All three were reported by the Key West Police Department. The Monroe County Sheriffs' Office did not report any hate crimes to the state.

Based on 1989 Florida legislation, a hate crime "is an act committed or attempted by one person or group against another that in any way constitutes an express of hatred" based on "race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, homeless status, advanced age or mental [or] physical disability."

A hate-crime charge allows prosecutors to increase penalties upon conviction for crimes where there is "evidence of certain prejudice," according to state statute.

In the Keys cases from 2013, one complaint of aggravated assault was reported over sexual orientation. An aggravated assault may involve a physical attack or threats with a dangerous weapon. Race was involved in a case of property damage, and another involving intimidation.

"In 2013, race-related crimes accounted for 55.6 percent of all reported hate crimes," says the state report.

Details of the Keys incidents or any legal outcome was not available Friday.