Doraville cracks down on hate crimes targeting LGBTQ people

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Doraville unanimously approved a hate crimes ordinance on Monday, joining a handful of Georgia cities that have stiffened punishments for crimes targeting LGBTQ people and other protected classes.

The measure came as the city council also decriminalized marijuana possession under one ounce and became the latest of more than a dozen cities in the state to do so.

The hate crimes measure allows a judge to impose the maximum penalty for a city ordinance violation if it’s determined that the crime intentionally targeted a victim based on 10 actual or perceived characteristics – race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical or mental disability, or national origin.

City Council member Stephe Koontz, the sponsor of the hate crimes measure and the only transgender elected official in Georgia, applauded her colleagues for adopting the hate crimes ordinance.

“I’m very happy to have the full support of the city council on this important ordinance,” Koontz (photo) said. “This clearly sends the message to our community that Doraville doesn’t tolerate discrimination.”

The ordinance covers five city ordinance violations – malicious mischief, disorderly conduct, offenses against public peace and tranquility, destruction of property and defacing buildings. City ordinance violations in Doraville carry a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. The measure calls for judges to state the portion of a sentence that is enhanced for a hate crime.

The ordinance said hate crimes “terrorize individual victims and their families, institutions and businesses” and impact wide segments of the city’s population.

“They are attacks on the very values which are pillars of the City of Doraville,” according to the ordinance.

In February, Johs Creek passed a similar hate crimes measure. Sandy Springs approved one in 2019.

In July, Savannah adopted a sweeping LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance that also mandates the tracking and reporting of hate crimes in the city. In 2019, Dunwoody passed a nondiscrimination ordinance with a similar call for hate crimes tracking. Both measures do not include enhanced penalties.

Officials in Doraville said provisions to track and report hate crimes in the city were removed from the ordinance since a new state law requires law enforcement agencies to do so.

In June, Georgia lawmakers approved a hate crimes law that for the first time in state history includes protections for LGBTQ people. The measure calls for law agencies to track and report hate crimes to the GBI.

Koontz helped lead an effort in 2018 to pass an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in Doraville that has become the model for other cities in the state.

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