The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reports a dramatic rise in hate crimes in the state last year. Crimes against people with disabilities rose 88 percent to 42 total offenses, as the total number of hate crimes in the state rose 38 percent to 515 in 2008.
Most of the hate crimes against people with disabilities involved theft, assault and burglaries. Experts said the increase could be attributed to the poor economy.
“When people are feeling desperate and pressured in times like these … you’re going to try to find the most vulnerable person to victimize,” said Carol Westlake, executive director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition.
… “I think we sort of overall are seeing, particularly in Tennessee, a little bit of a general backlash against people with disabilities,” Westlake said. “I think that has to do with state budget crisis and money being tight everywhere.
“There’s this underlying message that too often people with disabilities aren’t as valued because there’s a perception they’re not contributing to society and the economics of the state,” making victimization easier, she said.