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Iowa and Nebraska have seen a rise in hate crimes in recent years, most of which have been committed on the basis of race and ethnicity, according to the FBI.
The FBI region that includes Iowa and Nebraska saw a 21 percent increase in the reporting of hate crimes between 2018 and 2019, Eugene Kowel, special agent in charge at the FBI’s Omaha field office, said at a Thursday news conference.
Kowel cited an Iowa case as an example of the kinds of hate crimes the agency has seen more of in recent years.
In the Iowa case, 43-year-old Nicole Poole Franklin, of Des Moines, pleaded guilty in April to federal hate crimes for driving onto Des Moines sidewalks to hit two children in separate attacks in 2019. Authorities said she targeted the children because she thought that one was Mexican and that the other was part of the Islamic State.
The FBI’s Omaha office has formed a multicultural advisory council, Kowel said, which is intended to help guide investigation strategies in hate crimes. The council is made up of community leaders and individuals from a cross-section of demographics.
Federal officials define a hate crime as a criminal offense, such as assault or arson, with an added element of bias against the intended target’s race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender or gender identity.