Connecticut Democrats seek to toughen hate crimes laws - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Connecticut Democrats seek to toughen hate crimes laws

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The Meriden mosque was shot at after the Paris attacks. (WFSB photo) The Meriden mosque was shot at after the Paris attacks. (WFSB photo)

Some Connecticut lawmakers want to toughen the state's hate crimes laws, such as increasing penalties and creating a hotline and text line so people can report incidents of harassment or intimidation of minority groups.

Democrats in the General Assembly unveiled their proposed legislation Thursday. They say it's in response to an uptick in hate-related crimes, including murders, assaults, bomb threats and vandalism targeting different groups across the country.

The Muslim community favors punishment, but also community involvement.

"We do need to realize the seriousness of the divide that is dividing us,” said Zahir Mannan, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

He knows what it’s like to be victimized by a hate crime.

His mosque in Meriden was shot at several times, almost two years ago.

"The swastikas in Danbury, the threats at the JCC in Woodbridge and West Hartford, and for us in Stamford, it crystalized with the (“N” word) written on a garage door,” said Stamford State Rep. William Tong.

State democrats want to increase the penalty for making bomb threats and vandalism, from a Class D to a Class C felony. The difference is up to 10 years in prison versus up to five.

Lawmakers say we should not tolerate crimes that target people for their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender.

Mannan said since the attack on their mosque, they've increased security, but strangely enough, he says the attack brought them a bit closer to their community. They have a stronger relationship with police, and they have more interfaith meetings.

"You always have pockets of people who have hatred but they may not know they are ignorant...that's why education has a lot to do with it,” Mannan said.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano says he's disappointed Democrats didn't work with the GOP on the issue.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.