With hate crimes on the rise, US federal prosecutors have charged more than 40 people with hate crimes since January 2021 and obtained more than 35 convictions, according to the Justice Department.
The department released the figures on Friday when it marked the first anniversary of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and announced new measures to deter and combat hate crimes. The law required the Justice Department to expedite a review of hate crime cases.
“No one in this country should have to fear the threat of violence fueled by hate,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “The Justice Department will continue to use every resource at its disposal to confront illegal acts of hate and hold accountable those who perpetrate them.”
The number of hate crime prosecutions and convictions published by the Department of Justice appears slightly higher than recent historical trends. A 2021 Bureau of Justice Statistics study found that federal prosecutors had charged an average of about 21 defendants and obtained an average of 19 hate crime convictions per year over a 15-year period.
Under the Trump Administration, the Justice Department faced criticism for not prioritizing the fulfillment of civil rights.
Trump Administration officials refuted the allegation, with the Justice Department’s top civil rights official stating in January 2021 that his division had filed the largest number of hate crime charges during Trump’s final year in office. However, he did not provide a number.
A Justice Department spokesman did not respond to a request from the VOA of figures on prosecutions for hate crimes during the Trump Administration.
Federal law makes it a hate crime to target a victim because of their race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. Criminal offenses prosecuted as hate crimes range from acts of violence to damage to religious property.
Most hate crimes are prosecuted at the state and local level, with federal prosecutors bringing charges in rare circumstances. In fact, the vast majority of hate crime cases referred to the Department of Justice are not prosecuted.
There are several federal hate crime statutes, and they carry harsh penalties. But hate crimes are difficult to prosecute. To obtain a conviction, prosecutors must prove that the defendant was motivated by bias and not simply that the victim belonged to a protected class.
Last year, hate crimes in 37 major US cities rose by nearly 39%, accounting for most of the increase, according to police data compiled by the University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. California State, San Bernardino.
As part of their intensified efforts to combat hate crimes, the Justice Department said it is issuing new guidance with the department of health and human services aimed at raising awareness of bias crimes; issue grant applications for programs to create state hotlines; and the hiring of the department’s first language access coordinator.
“Language access is a key barrier to reporting hate crimes, and the Language Access Coordinator will help improve awareness, use and expansion of the Department of Justice’s language resources,” the department said.
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