Mother of Matthew Shepard visits Philly to address conference

The mother of a high-profile hate crime victim is visiting Philadelphia to urge law-enforcement officers and community leaders to find solutions to crimes caused by discrimination.

The Hate Crimes Conference took place Wednesday at the National Constitution Center.

Judy Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, who was tortured and killed in 1998 for being gay.

Shepard says hate crimes are still vastly underreported and people don’t talk about it enough.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“I saw earlier this morning that Pennsylvania had 57 recorded hate crimes. Seriously? 57? You know, Pennsylvania is like right up there in the nation with the largest number of hate groups, right?” she said. “OK, so does 57 make sense to you? It doesn’t to me.”

Those numbers are from 2010, but Shepard says people are still afraid of being victimized again when they report a case.

The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agrees with Shepard’s assessment of the number of hate crimes.

“I know this from discussion with law enforcement officials that Pennsylvania is one of the states with the highest number of hate crime groups and organizations, that’s a reality,” said Zane Memeger. “And so when you look at the number 57, it makes you ask the question, why?”

Memeger says there are more hate crime prosecutions now since the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed in 2008.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal