The legislation enhances penalties for the misdemeanors of vandalism and disorderly conduct if the crime targets a victim based on race, color, creed, age, religion, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or physical or mental disability. The penalty enhancements are up to 60 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
The Fulton County Commission passed the measure in June. Commissioner Bob Ellis sponsored the ordinance.
“It’s been forever well documented that hate crimes can have very broad, harmful effect on the communities in which they occur because they victimize not only the target, but every member of the group that that target of the crime represents,” Ellis (photo) said according to the minutes of the meeting. “We’re a diverse county; that’s our strength.”
The ordinance requires the Fulton County Police Department, which provides law enforcement in unincorporated areas of the county, to track and report hate crimes to the FBI. Fines for violating the ordinance support hate crime or diversity education programs.
Commissioners Natalie Hall, Joe Carn and Marvin Arrington, Jr. co-sponsored the measure. They modeled it after an ordinance Sandy Springs passed in 2019. Johns Creek and Doraville passed similar hate crimes measures earlier this year.
Earlier this month, Statesboro adopted a sweeping LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance that also mandates tracking and reporting hate crimes in the city. Savannah passed a similar measure in July. In 2019, Dunwoody did the same. None of those policies enhance penalties for hate crimes.
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.
One in five hate crimes in Georgia in 2018 were motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation. Georgia agencies fall way behind the national average in reporting hate crimes to the FBI, and several agencies failed to report hate crimes to the FBI in 2018.
Ellis, a Republican, faces a challenge for his District 2 seat on Nov. 3 from Justin Holsomback, a pansexual IT recruiter and Democratic Party activist. Holsomback wants to expand Fulton’s nondiscrimination ordinance and make free PrEP available at all county health facilities.
This story is made possible by a grant from Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.