Citing , more than 90 U.S. Congressmembers have signed a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation asking the agency to begin tracking hate crimes against the group.
"The more information our law enforcement agencies have on violence against Sikh-Americans, the more they can do to help prevent these crimes and bring those who commit them to justice,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) said in a statement.
The April 19 letter points to the , two elderly Sikh men living in Elk Grove, as evidence for why the FBI should update its method of compiling hate crime statistics.
The FBI's Hate Crime Incident Report form, used by law enforcement agencies to track bias crimes, contains spaces for investigators to indicate crimes against Jews, Catholics, Muslims and members of other religious groups. But it lacks a specific option for Sikhs, who number about 500,000 in the United States.
Sikh community advocates say they believe law enforcement officials most often lump Sikhs together with Muslims, on the theory that the turbans and beards worn by Sikh men cause them to be mistaken for members of that group.
"Policymakers need statistics to make decisions about resource-allocation [to prevent hate crimes], but how can they make informed decisions without statistics?" said Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy for the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based civil rights group that is pushing for the change in policy.
"We believe that putting Sikhs on the radar, in the context of hate crime statistics, will encourage law enforcement officials to learn about our community, conduct community outreach, and ultimately encourage Sikhs to increase reporting of hate crimes."
Stephen Fischer, a spokesperson for the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services division, said investigators can use the Hate Crime Incident Report form's "Anti-Other Religion" option to report bias against Sikhs.
Fischer declined to comment on the legislators' letter, saying FBI staff were in the process of preparing a response.
Surinder Singh, 65, and Gurmej Atwal, 78, were while taking their regular afternoon walk down East Stockton Blvd. Singh died at the scene; Atwal several weeks later.
The have not officially been designated hate crimes. But the men's traditional clothing and the lack of another obvious motive have fueled speculation that bias was a factor, and Elk Grove police have said they are investigating that possibility.
Rajdeep Singh—who is not related to Surinder Singh—said his group was already trying to get the Justice Department to update its hate crime reporting before the Elk Grove killings, but that the murders "underscore the urgency and timeliness" of the request.
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