Last year, we were given a grim reminder of what hate looks like.
A white gunman traveled 200 miles to a predominately Black area in Buffalo and killed 10 people, wounding three others. The shooter has pleaded guilty to state charges of domestic terrorism and murder, and a federal grand jury has returned a 27-count indictment charging him with hate crimes and firearms offenses. The indictment brings charges under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, among other counts.
Despite the progress we have made as a country, horrific acts like this – fueled by racism and other forms of hatred and bias – are not a thing of the past. The mass shooting this past November at Club Q – an LGBTQI+ nightclub in Colorado Springs – where five people were killed and dozens injured, conjured up memories of the violent 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, when a gunman killed 49 people. The suspected Colorado Springs shooter is facing a number of charges, including hate crimes.
In response to the cases in both Colorado Springs and Buffalo, the Justice Department’s Victims of Crime and Civil Rights Division offices, the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, along with others, have worked and continue to work closely with local authorities to ensure that those responsible for these heinous acts are brought to justice, and to assist those communities as they continue to recover.
The number of people across the country being affected by hate crimes is staggering. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has reported that Americans, on average, suffered approximately 247,000 hate crime victimizations annually between 2005 and 2019.
This number is indeed troubling, and the Office of Justice Programs is using all available resources to counter the proliferation of hate crime in America. This year we awarded $12.4 million in grants to address the rise in hate crimes. These grants will help improve the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, expand services to hate crime victims and support research and evaluation to bring a better understanding of the nature of hate crime offending and victimization.
One of these initiatives, The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Program, honors the memory of James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old Black man from Jasper, Texas, who was gruesomely killed back in 1998 when he was tied to the back of a pickup truck by white supremacists and dragged to his death. This grant program supports law enforcement agencies in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes and encourages partnerships with community stakeholders in order to combat these crimes through a broad and collaborative approach.
A new grant program, authorized by Congress for the first time in FY 2022, provides funding and support to community-based and civil rights organizations to support anti-hate efforts in local communities around the country. One such effort is being led by Voces Unidas for Justice, a non-profit in Colorado Springs, that will offer services to underserved victims of hate crimes and assist them with reporting those crimes, and another is being led by the Special Service for Groups Inc, which will use outreach, education and engagement to address hate crimes in Los Angeles.
Along with the direct grants that OJP has awarded, Futures Without Violence, a San Francisco non-profit that received funding from OJP’s Office for Victims of Crime last year, has awarded more than $1 million in subgrants to 12 community organizations across the country to serve and support victims of hate crimes. These organizations will develop innovative approaches and strategies to address and prevent hate crimes in their communities while addressing the needs of hate crime survivors.
Among the organizations receiving these subgrants are the King Urban Life Center, Inc., a community center in Buffalo that will extend resources and healing services to those impacted by the shooting at the Tops grocery store. Funding also supports In The Streets, a yoga studio in the District of Columbia that will extend holistic health, wellness and workforce development services to address transgenerational trauma related to hate crimes; and Cia Siab, Inc. in La Crosse, Wisconsin, which will enhance responses to the Hmoob (Hmong) community through accessible reporting tools, trainings for service providers and improved coordination with health and legal services.
Below are the direct OJP grants awarded this year that will help to improve the response to hate crimes:
- OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded $2.4 million to fund the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Program, which supports activities aimed at fighting hate, including enforcement and prosecution of hate crimes, assistance to victims and public outreach.
- BJA awarded $3.4 million to fund Community Based Approaches to Prevent and Address Hate Crimes, which supports community-based organizations and civil rights groups by helping them implement comprehensive community-based approaches to addressing hate crimes that promote community awareness and preparedness, increased victim reporting and improved responses to hate crimes.
- BJA awarded $1.7 million under the Emmett Till Cold Case Investigations and Prosecution Program to support activities and expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of cold case murders involving civil rights violations.
- The National Institute of Justice awarded $2.9 million to support Research and Evaluation on Hate Crimes, focusing on understanding and preventing hate crime offending and reoffending; identifying strategies that improve the reporting, investigating and prosecuting of hate crimes; and addressing the needs of victims of hate crimes and their communities.
- OJP’s Office for Victims of Crime has awarded more than $2 million to fund the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act State-Run Hate Crime Reporting Hotlines to establish hate crime reporting hotlines and to ensure victim and witnesses are connected to law enforcement and local support services.
In addition to these grant awards, the Bureau of Justice Statistics allocated more than $2 million in fiscal year 2022 Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act funds to support law enforcement agencies that have not yet transitioned to the National Incident-based Reporting System, now the data collection mechanism for the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reporting Program. NIBRS will have a substantial impact in achieving more robust and complete estimates of hate crime reported to law enforcement.
Acts of violence rooted in hate and bias leave victims with long-term scars, terrorize entire communities and further widen the divides in our nation. Everyone in the United States deserves to live free of intolerance and intimidation. Only by working together can we continue the march toward full inclusion and equal justice and secure a bright future for all Americans.