Burnings in the 21st Century
cross burned outside a home where an African-American
man was living near Foukes, Arkansas,
in May 2006.
called it a "house warming."
Florida man doused a six-foot tall makeshift
cross in his yard with flammable liquid and
set it on fire. Then, he told a 15-year-old
African American whose family was looking
at a house for sale next door, "I don't
want to see you around here again, boy."
today? Yes, they still happen.
Twenty have been reported nationwide since
October 2005, says Special Agent Carlton L.
Peeples, acting Chief of the Civil Rights
Unit at FBI Headquarters.
aren't that common compared to overall crime
in this country, but when they do take place,
they have a huge impactnot just on the
victim but on the entire community,"
Peeples says. "They are a poisonous kind
of hatred and can increase racial tension
that may already exist in the area."
we're actively investigating six such cases,
in California where a cross was set on
fire outside the rectory of a Catholic priest
and how do we get involved when a cross burning
or similar hate crime is reported? "We
can get involved in a variety of ways: because
of credible victim and witness complaints
or media reports or through referrals from
the Department of Justice or Congress. We
learn about most incidents through our partnerships
with state and local authorities, who are
often the first responders," Peeples
points out. "Because the FBI doesn't
have sole responsibility for hate crime investigations,
these cases can be worked jointly or concurrently.
Or we may follow the state or local investigation
to make sure the federal interest has been
burnings are often hard to investigate because
they generally take place at night, in rural
areas, where witnesses are scarce and the
bonds between conspirators are strong, especially
if they are part of an organized hate group.
do we bring to the table? Two things primarily.
our full suite of investigative and intelligence
capabilities. For example: