The United States Department of Justice Community Relations Service is the Department's "Peacemaker" for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. CRS is not an investigatory or prosecutorial agency, and it does not have any law enforcement authority.
Rather, the Agency works with all parties, including State and local units of government, private and public organizations, civil rights groups, and community leaders, to uncover the underlying interests of all of those involved in the conflict and facilitates the development of viable, mutual understandings, and solutions to the community's challenges. In addition, CRS assists communities in developing local mechanisms and community capacity to prevent tension and violent hate crimes from occurring the future. All CRS services are provided free of charge to the communities and are confidential. CRS works in all 50 states and the U.S. territories, and in communities large and small, rural, urban, and suburban.
How We Help Communities
The Agency assists communities with two types of issues: Racial and Ethnic Conflicts and Hate Crimes. Racial and ethnic conflicts are defined by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as "disputes, disagreements, or difficulties relating to discriminatory practices based on race, color, or national origin which impair the rights of persons in such communities..." In 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program documented that of all the reported single-bias hate crime incidents in 2012, 48.5% of the victims were targeted due to the offender's personal bias against the victim's ethnicity or national origin. CRS works with state and local governments, private and public organizations, and community groups and leaders to prevent and resolve racial and ethnic tensions and civil disorders, and build communities' capacity to resolve future similar conflicts.
Under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, CRS also helps communities prevent and respond to hate crimes based on actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. The federal definition of a hate crime is "a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a propety crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation of any person." Also, known as bias-based crimes, hate crimes are considered "message crimes," or offenses that send a message of fear and terror to community members with similar traits. CRS helps conflict stakeholders reduce fear, dispel misunderstandings or misperceptions, and increase cultural competency in the broader community.