The Eastern District of California (EDCA) has a robust community outreach program, which connects with many different underrepresented groups. EDCA’s outreach program builds upon community-oriented relationships, trust, and dialogue, which we have developed through active and long-term participation in the community. If you’d like to connect with our office, learn more about any of the following programs, or request our participation in a special event, please contact Outreach Specialist Sean Vassar at Sean.Vassar@usdoj.gov.
Hate Crimes Task Forces
One of the most valuable and sustained efforts undertaken by the EDCA is the Greater Sacramento Hate Crimes Task Force, which was first convened in 1999 following the “Summer of Hate” crimes that included the murder of a gay couple in Shasta County and arson attacks on Jewish synagogues in Sacramento. The Hate Crimes Task Force connects many diverse community leaders and organizations with the federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that serve them. Represented groups include the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Interfaith, Latino, African American, Asian American, LGBTQ+, and many other communities.
As part of this effort, the EDCA also provides training to help community members and organizations report hate crimes, and facilitates training for active shooter scenarios and acts of violence. The EDCA has also convened the Hate Crimes Task Force to host a community focused discussion about officer-involved shootings to build awareness regarding the procedures involved in the review and investigation of these incidents.
In April 2021, building on the success of the Sacramento-based Hate Crimes Task Force, the EDCA revitalized and relaunched our Fresno based Community Outreach Council as the Greater Fresno Hate Crimes Task Force to serve the southern part of our district.
Interfaith and Religious Minorities
Violence and hate directed at religious minorities is a persistent threat. In response, the EDCA has taken on a leadership role in facilitating both in-person and virtual trainings for religious communities and congregations on how to protect themselves, and to encourage the reporting of hate crimes, intimidation, and suspicious behavior. These trainings also make available free site visits where law enforcement experts conduct security evaluations, develop prevention and response plans, and make recommendations on how to improve security. A third component of our outreach and violence prevention plan is the regular distribution of information on federal grants available to houses of worship to purchase security equipment such as cameras, alarms, and fencing.
Our outreach to interfaith and religious minority communities extends beyond providing training and raising awareness. We actively participate in interfaith and other religious minority events, ranging from small-group board meetings to large community events such as Iftars during Ramadan. We also work to help raise awareness and connect religious minorities with other community leaders, the federal court family, and law enforcement. For example, we recently hosted an educational event during Ramadan, with the Executive Director of the Islamic Cultural Center of Fresno presenting on the significance of Ramadan, and the lived experience of being a Muslim-American. In addition to our staff, community members, and federal court agencies, we invited every federal, state and local law enforcement agency in our 34-county District to attend.
African American Community
EDCA works closely with African American community leaders and groups. Our office has played a critical role in community healing and maintaining a collaborative dialogue following some of the most difficult and dividing times our country and region have recently faced, including the in-custody death of George Floyd and the officer-involved shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento.
Following the death of George Floyd, our office responded by supporting the time honored First Amendment right to protest, while bringing the community together with law enforcement in a call for unity and peace. These efforts included multiple listening sessions and meetings with African American community leaders and groups, including multiple chapters of the NAACP and the 100 Black Men of Sacramento, clergy, and other community leaders. These efforts also resulted in the issuance of a joint public statement calling for peace and unity with 37 diverse community groups, the FBI, and the Sacramento Police Department. Our extensive efforts at community outreach and community building have helped to promote peace during incredibly difficult times.
Today, the EDCA continues listening sessions and meetings with African American community leaders and groups to encourage dialogue, learn about community concerns, and better represent our diverse community.
We also join the community in celebration, participating every year in planning the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration dinner, which has been in existence for over 20 years, and attracts thousands of attendees from acrost the state.
Asian American and Pacific Islanders Community
Our long-term relationships with AAPI communities have been instrumental in proactively addressing increases in AAPI discrimination and hate crimes. Our office routinely hosts listening sessions and meetings with AAPI community leaders and groups, allowing us to be more proactive in our response to community needs. We also provide training on hate crimes, and have provided this training to community members, students, teachers, and school administrators. In response to the increase in hate-related incidents directed at the AAPI community during COVID, we produced a Public Service Announcement on the importance of reporting hate crimes that was translated and aired in in seven languages commonly spoken by the AAPI community in our region. We also work to help celebrate AAPI Heritage Month.
Supporting and deepening relationships with the LGBTQ+ community is a key component of our outreach program. These engagements include EDCA-hosted events open to the community, internal informational events hosted through our Special Emphasis Program, and participation in community events such as Pride Month.
In celebration of Pride Month 2021, we partnered with the Sacramento LGBT Community Center to host a discussion with Alexis Sanchez, Director of Advocacy and Training for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Thomas. Our speakers discussed their experience as members of the LGBTQ+ community and how law enforcement can better support and respond to the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to EDCA staff, our office extended an invitation to every federal, state, and local law enforcement partner in our 34-county district, community leaders and groups, and members of the federal court family to attend the program.
EDCA’s Special Emphasis Program also partnered with Lambda Legal and SacLegal, Sacramento’s LGBTQ+ bar association, to present a discussion on legal issues and major Supreme Court cases affecting the LGBTQ+ community. This Pride Month event was also open to community leaders and groups, members of the federal court family, and federal, state, and local law enforcement.
Hispanic & LatinX Community
The EDCA continues to build engagement with the Hispanic and Latino communities, including through regular attendance at community hosted meetings and events, service on the Hispanic National Bar Association, and promoting our commitment to prosecute bias or hate motivated crimes committed against the community through a variety of venues, including the filming of PSAs aired in Spanish. We also provide hate crimes training to service providers that assist the Hispanic and Latino communities. We also work to help celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month 2021, our office hosted an educational event for our staff, the federal court, and our law enforcement partners featuring UC Berkeley Emeritus Ethnic Studies Professor Alex Saragoza, who addressed the diversity of the Latino population, and distinctions within each group popularly encompassed within generic terms such as “Latino.”
Child Exploitation Outreach
One of the primary goals of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is the protection of children and other vulnerable individuals. As schools transitioned to remote learning in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal law enforcement identified a significant and concerning increase in online child enticement and sexual exploitation activity. In response to these challenges, our office developed trainings and outreach programs for families, schools, and law enforcement to help prevent and detect child exploitation in this new environment. Together with the FBI, our outreach efforts reached top leaders, curriculum designers and IT professionals from over 90% of the approximately 1,100 school districts in California. By teaching young people how to protect themselves online, and parents and educators how to protect their children, we are working hard to prevent crimes against children.
In addition to this outreach to families and schools, our office also provided training to local law enforcement to ensure that federal and local law enforcement are working together as effectively as possible to combat crimes against children.
Domestic Violence Outreach
The EDCA not only investigates and prosecutes domestic violence felons who unlawfully possess firearms, we also conduct outreach to help domestic violence victims get help and protect themselves. During the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the concern that domestic violence victims were trapped at home with their abusers, we partnered with multiple District Attorneys and ChildHelp to help lead an innovative outreach campaign that was conducted entirely online. This outreach campaign focused on raising awareness and providing resources to victims through coordinated social media posts and a Facebook Live panel event, reaching over 136,800 individuals across the district.
Due to the effectiveness of this online campaign and the enduring COVID-19 pandemic, EDCA led a renewed partnership with multiple District Attorneys and ChildHelp during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This outreach campaign continued to raise awareness and provide resources to domestic violence victims.
School Shootings and Violence
School shootings and violence have reached epidemic proportions. One of our top priorities is working with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to ensure our schools are safe and secured against this ongoing threat. New research is shedding light on ways to identify, manage and assist troubled individuals before they carry out acts of violence, and our office is actively working with our partners to disseminate the latest information to our schools. In furtherance of this effort, we partnered with the FBI to distribute copies of the documentary “Echoes of Columbine” to all 34 County Superintendents of Schools in our district.
Youth & Civics Outreach
Our office is also committed to civics education, with our attorneys volunteering every year in the Court’s annual Open Doors to Federal Courts program in Sacramento and Fresno, Yosemite Law Day, and Operation Protect and Defend, a civics program that brings judges and lawyers into high school classrooms. And when we say our attorneys, we mean all our attorneys - from the U.S. Attorney and members of our senior management, to our newest AUSAs. In fall 2021, we also started a new civics effort with a local elementary school through Project LEAD. EDCA also helps connect law enforcement with schools, bringing speakers to local high schools to meet with students. Our office also engages in outreach to schools outside of these programs, including Luther Burbank High School and Grant High School.
Future Assistant United States Attorney Academy
The Eastern District of California is committed to inspiring future generations to pursue careers in public service. In what has become an annual event, the Future Assistant United States Attorney Academy invites college students, law students, and teachers into the federal courthouse for a half-day overview of the work and mission of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. This program includes outreach to diverse student bodies, including local community colleges. Two of the audience’s favorite presentations are an informal meet and greet with the United States Attorney and current Assistant United States Attorneys, as well as an overview of the Federal Judiciary presented by a federal judge.
Women In Leadership
We also work with students through our Women In Leadership series, which began in 2015 as part of our office’s Special Emphasis Program and has brought together our office, the Federal Defender’s Office, the federal court community, law students, and the bar to address important issues affecting women judges, attorneys, law students, and staff. We have partnered with the Federal Bar Association and Women Lawyers of Sacramento for many of these programs. This program series has raised awareness and invited discussion within the federal court family and bar.
Our outreach allows us to more fully protect communities by addressing problems at multiple levels and in a proactive manner. For example, to address the opioid crisis, we not only investigate and prosecute opioid trafficking, but we have taken a leadership role in proactively raising awareness about the dangers of opioids misuse. EDCA has held large opioid summits designed to educate service providers, medical professionals, teachers, and parents. Our office is currently working on our next Opioid Summit for Educators scheduled to be held in the Sacramento region in spring 2022. EDCA also serves on county opioid coalitions, embracing a holistic approach to preventing and treating opioid misuse, and bringing opioid traffickers to justice.
As part of the Department of Justice’s Elder Justice Initiative, our office engages in outreach to raise awareness and promote prevention of elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors. This outreach includes close communication and coordination with our local and state law enforcement partners, and membership in local organizations and coalitions dedicated to preventing elder abuse, such as the Sacramento Financial Abuse Specialist Team (SACFAST). Our Elder Justice Coordinators (EJC) also present to and meet with groups of elder justice professionals, such adult protective services and the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office to gather information on elder abuse issues, brainstorm ideas to combat abuse and exploitation, and promote awareness of federal resources dedicated to protecting our nation’s seniors. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we held a discussion and provided tips to the elder community on avoiding fraud, particularly COVID-19 related fraud. Our office also participated in a tele town-hall with the AARP and other U.S. Attorney Offices to raise awareness regarding COVID-19 related fraud. Finally, we present directly to seniors to provide information on current fraud schemes, how to avoid fraud, and how to get help if victimized.
National Night Out in Local Communities
Another tool we use to facilitate dialogue and develop relationships with the community is participation in the annual community building campaign National Night Out. For over a decade, our office has been proud to partner with our federal and local partners to participate in this opportunity to get out into the neighborhoods we serve by attending community hosted block parties with local law enforcement.
All of the programs above include participation by EDCA management, and many involve the direct participation of our U.S. Attorney.
For more information on any of our programs, or to discuss our participation in a special event, please contact Outreach Specialist Sean Vassar at Sean.Vassar@usdoj.gov.