Ky. prosecutor focuses on stopping hate crimes


LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) -

The top federal prosecutor for central and eastern Kentucky says he is making enforcement of federal civil rights laws a priority and will go after people accused of hate crimes.

U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey held civil rights training on Thursday for about 100 state and local police and prosecutors to explain changes in federal hate crimes law.

Harvey had a warning for those who want to hurt someone because of their race, sexual orientation or religion.

"They need to understand that they're playing with fire, that it won't be tolerated," Kerry told The Herald-Leader http://bit.ly/y4eSXm.

Congress broadened the law in 2009 to include crimes motivated by a victim's sexual orientation, disability and gender.

Harvey said he wants police to be aware of civil rights laws so they will be more likely to spot whether a crime was motivated by bias. He has designated a unit within the U.S. Attorney's office to focus on civil rights enforcement.

Kentucky State Police statistics show 69 hate crimes were reported in Kentucky in 2010, but Harvey said it's likely that many hate crimes go unreported.

Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, a group that advocates for gay, lesbian, transgender and intersex people, said the increased enforcement on civil rights was appreciated.

"He's shown enormous sensitivity, enormous outreach," Palmer said.

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