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White House Hosts First Hate Crime Conference

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WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, Nov. 9) -- President Bill Clinton will unveil new measures aimed at cracking down on bias-driven violence at the first White House conference on hate crimes Monday.

Although White House officials declined to discuss the specifics of what Clinton will propose, he is expected to offer both administrative and legislative initiatives.

The conference will bring Clinton and top administration officials together with more than 300 civil rights activists, police officials, religious leaders and others.

It is aimed at finding ways to stop the kind of violent crime that is motivated by bias against race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or disability. The number of such crimes reported to the FBI has almost doubled since 1991.

"For too many communities, hate crimes are a grim reminder of the challenges we face in building our American family," said Attorney General Janet Reno.

In 1995, the latest year for which figures were available, more than 10,000 crimes of bias were reported in the United States, according to Reno.

The number of reporting agencies also has risen, and critics say that fact accounts for the increasing number of reported crimes. Critics argue that the conference is highlighting a minor problem, considering the 13 million overall crimes reported last year.

Eric Holder, deputy attorney general, says hate crimes are grossly underreported. Only about half the states have mechanisms for tallying the number of hate crimes that occur, and people are reluctant to report them, he said.

Already, police training in some jurisdictions includes the recognition and reporting of hate crimes. And the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld statutes significantly increasing the penalties for such crimes.

The Clinton administration apparently wants to do more. The conference will feature addresses by the president, Reno and Education Secretary Richard Riley and panel discussions on issues including hate crimes in schools and public housing, "organized" hate and statistics.

During an interview Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," Clinton said: "I think the real problem in America is still continuing discrimination and fear and downright misunderstanding."

CNN's correspondent Eileen O'Connor contributed to this report.