Boston Police Crack Down After Wave of Hate Crimes

LOCAL police are warning that anyone arrested in a series of racially motivated crimes in Boston's Charlestown section will face civil-rights charges.

``To the thugs, the bigots, the racists, and the thrill-seekers who might seem to capitalize on the events of the last few days, our message is this: Regardless of race or ethnicity, if you violate your neighbor's civil rights, we will find you, we will arrest you, you will be prosecuted and convicted, and you will get 10 years in prison,'' Police Comissioner William Bratton said Friday.

Police also said they are getting more cooperation from residents of the Bunker Hill housing development in their investigation of several stabbings last week and a string of apparent hate crimes that have followed.

Racial tensions rose after a brawl that began when three carloads of Hispanic youths from another neighborhood came to the housing project last Tuesday to play basketball.

A fight erupted and three white youths were stabbed. More than 100 white residents then came out of their apartments to yell and throw stones at the Hispanic youths. Residents also scuffled with police.

In the days following, a cross was burned outside a Hispanic family's apartment and an unlit Molotov cocktail - a homemade explosive - was found outside the doorway of another Hispanic resident's unit.

In the most recent development, Mr. Bratton said the Friday shooting in South Boston of an unoccupied car belonging to a Boston Housing Authority official was related to the Charlestown problems.

Housing Authority administrator David Cortiella said the authority is taking steps to protect its employees, who have been working with residents in denouncing racial problems at the Bunker Hill project.

About 3,000 people live in the Bunker Hill complex: 52 percent white, 17 percent Hispanic, 11 percent black, and 20 percent Asians and other minorities, according to housing authority figures.

Charlestown is a traditionally white neighborhood which reacted violently to court-ordered school busing in the early 1970s. No Insurance, No Driving

The third time may be the charm for Rhode Island's mandatory auto insurance law.

As of Nov. 1, anyone caught driving on state roads without evidence of insurance in their car can be fined $500 and have their driver's licenses and registrations suspended for three months.

The law, enacted in 1991, has been postponed twice and some people are clamoring for a third delay, but legislative leaders say that won't happen.

Supporters of the measure say it's time Rhode Island joins the 42 other states that require all motorists to carry liability protection. Opponents say some people can't afford to buy insurance and they need a car to function.

Sheldon Whitehouse, director of the state Department of Business Regulation, estimated that about 70,000 out of Rhode Island's 400,000 car owners don't have insurance.

Of those, about 40,000 were expected to buy insurance in the final weeks of October, Mr. Whitehouse said. The rest were expected to gamble that they don't get caught.

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