Thank you, Amy, for that introduction, and for your and your team’s work to put this event together. Thank you, Attorney General Brown, for hosting us, and for all the work you are doing through your office and in your community to guard against and combat hate.
We are here this morning to talk about hate crimes, and to lift up the work the Justice Department is doing to combat hate crimes and hate incidents, and make this country safer for all of us. Before I talk about our grant funding and other efforts, I want to acknowledge current events and the effect they are having here at home.
I know we have all been watching with horror the events in Israel and Gaza, and we cannot mince words: It is appalling and heartbreaking.
Here in the United States, the FBI has seen an increase in reported threats against Jewish, Arab, and Muslim communities and institutions, and we have all seen potential acts of hate unfold, including the brutal killing of six-year-old Wadea Al-Fayoume and serious injuries suffered by his mother, Hanaan Shahin, which the Justice Department is investigating as a potential hate crime. And earlier this month, a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging an Indiana man who called and left death threats on the voicemails of Anti-Defamation League offices in four states.
We know events like these, and the violence abroad, cannot help but further raise the fears of Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in our country with regard to hate-fueled violence. The Attorney General has directed all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the FBI to be in close touch with our partners in state, local, federal, and international law enforcement and to stay vigilant to ensure Americans here at home are kept safe. As with any potential threats here in the United States, the FBI and the rest of the Justice Department will continue to take precautions to protect people and infrastructure across the country, while protecting the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of all people.
The Justice Department has also been engaging with leaders from affected communities, including U.S. Attorneys across the country reaching out to religious and other community leaders in their districts to provide support and assistance where needed. The Community Relations Service (CRS) is available to assist communities as well, and I’m so glad Acting CRS Director Justin Lock is here with us today. As you will hear from Justin, CRS’s Protecting Places of Worship Forum provides faith-based leaders and congregations information about religious-bias hate crimes and brings together federal, state, and local law enforcement to address safety and security issues.
Hate crimes instill fear across communities and undermine our democracy. Rest assured: The Justice Department will continue to use all the levers at our disposal to combat hate in this country.
One of those levers is financial support through grants for state and local law enforcement and prosecution agencies, community-based organizations, and civil rights groups to combat hate.
I am thrilled to announce that this year, the Justice Department is awarding over $38 million to support the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, increase hate crimes reporting, expand victim services, and improve community awareness. This is more than we awarded in the last two years combined, which shows — in real dollars — our continued and increased commitment to this work.
Through the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Program, we are awarding over $17 million this year to help state and local law enforcement improve the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes and support victims.
For example, the Miami-Dade County Police Department is using a Shepard-Byrd grant to work with the community-based organization Survivors Pathways to ensure that outreach to and feedback from victims of hate crimes drive their process, and to provide training for their officers. In Chicago, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office is implementing an education and outreach program to increase public awareness, identification, and reporting of hate crimes, and will also increase the Office’s ability to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. And the City of Houston is bringing together police and prosecutors’ offices across southeast Texas to combat hate crimes, as well as committing more than half of its grant dollars to a local network of community-based organizations working to reduce hate and encourage belonging.
We also awarded more than $8 million to community-based organizations and civil rights groups to promote community awareness and preparedness, increase victim reporting, strengthen community resiliency, and improve response to hate crimes.
For example, the Arab American Institute Foundation is launching a project to overcome barriers to accurate reporting of hate crimes by promoting stronger relationships between law enforcement and stakeholder communities and supporting culturally competent responses to hate incidents. The organization Right to Be is using grant funds to develop bystander intervention trainings to prevent and de-escalate hate crimes against LGBTQI+ communities in Texas. And the Charleston Jewish Federation in South Carolina is expanding antisemitism trainings for schools, workplaces, law enforcement agencies, and local governments.
The Department is also awarding over $2.3 million in research grants to improve prevention efforts and study how communities and government can work together to proactively reduce hate crimes. And through the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act program, which was created by the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, we are funding a state-run hate crime hotline in Nevada and supporting law enforcement agencies transitioning from the old crime data collection system to the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
NIBRS collects substantially more detailed data for each incident and provides a richer and more complete picture of all crime nationwide. Better data means a better understanding of crime and how to prevent it, including hate crimes.
Since 2016, the Justice Department has given technical assistance and over $120 million through the FBI and our Bureau of Justice Statistics to assist jurisdictions transitioning to NIBRS. But despite these efforts, too many agencies are still not reporting hate crimes data to the FBI. The FBI recently released hate crime statistics for 2022, and the total number of agencies reporting hate crimes data decreased for the fifth consecutive year.
What the hate crime statistics showed was that the significant increase in hate crimes from 2020 to 2021 remained at the same heightened level in 2022. And we know these incidents are underreported from communities to state and local law enforcement and from state and local law enforcement to the FBI. We cannot be fully effective in the prevention and prosecution of hate crimes without more accurate and comprehensive data collection and reporting. We must do better, and this year we are dedicating almost $7 million to that effort.
Before I close, I want to mention a Justice Department initiative that I am especially proud of: Over the past year, all 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices launched the United Against Hate community outreach program, in close partnership with FBI, CRS, and the Civil Rights Division. We designed United Against Hate to connect federal, state, and local law enforcement with communities, including those that have been historically marginalized, in order to: increase community understanding and reporting of hate crimes; build trust between communities and law enforcement; and create stronger alliances to prevent and combat hate crimes.
The Department has held over 200 United Against Hate events nationwide with over 6,000 participants. And because language access has been a barrier to reporting hate crimes and incidents, the United Against Hate program materials have now been translated into 20 languages, and we are using interpreters and bilingual staff to increase language access in outreach and events.
This Wednesday, to highlight the importance of United Against Hate, the Civil Rights Division is hosting a virtual forum that will bring together community groups, leaders, and law enforcement. This event will also commemorate the 25th anniversaries of the tragic murders of James Byrd, Jr. and Matthew Shephard, and the 14th anniversary of the Shephard Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
We are here this morning to lift up the many ways to build partnerships to combat hate and heal in its aftermath, and how the Justice Department is supporting those efforts through our grants and other related work. I am grateful for Attorney General Brown’s leadership here in Maryland. His office is a model for how law enforcement and community stakeholders can work together to prevent and address hate crimes.
These partnerships are critical in times like these. We can and must stand together to reject bigotry in all forms, reject dehumanizing language that attempts to justify hate-fueled violence, and reject the artificial divisions that threaten to fracture the coalitions we have built across communities.
Everyone in this country should be able to live without fear of being attacked or harassed because of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, or how they worship. The Justice Department will continue to work with our state and local law enforcement and community partners to prevent and combat hate in all its forms.