In Wake of Charlottesville, Velázquez Seeks Greater Federal Resources to Address Hate Crimes
Bill Dedicates Additional $50 Million to Tackle Bias-Based Attacks
Washington, DC – Following the violent rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville this weekend, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has authored new legislation that would dedicate additional federal resources to combat the growing prevalence of hate crimes around the country. The “Hate Crimes Victim Assistance Act,” would authorize an additional $50 million in federal funds to help prevent, track and prosecute hate crimes and assist victims.
“Bigotry and hate have no place in our society, but, sadly, Charlottesville provided a stark reminder that our nation has not yet buried the shameful ghosts of our past,” Velázquez said. “In light of this weekend’s events, Congress must be proactive in addressing the proliferation of hate crimes. This measure would take tangible steps to do so.”
Recent data has exhibited a marked increase in hate crimes. One analysis found a 20% increase in hate crimes in nine metropolitan areas last year in conjunction with the 2016 election. According to the study, New York reported the greatest number of hate crimes at 380, a 24 percent increase over 2015. Another, more recent analysis saw 900 bias-based incidents nationally in just the 10 days following Donald Trump’s election to President. The Anti-Defamation League recently reported that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, compared to same period last year.
“Donald Trump’s irresponsible campaign rhetoric and, more recently his immoral inability to fully condemn racist marchers in Charlottesville serve to fuel abhorrent actions,” Velázquez noted. “Where the President fails to show leadership, Congress must step up and tackle these problems head on. This bill will start that process.”
Among other provisions, Velázquez’s bill provides $15 million in federal resources to bolster local law enforcement hate crime training. Funds under this program are allocated to solve hate crimes and facilitate discussion with community stakeholders whose members are at risk of being victims. Grants would be targeted to jurisdictions that have high levels of hate crime activity. The program also encourages community policing and diverse recruitment of police officers.
“Our local police departments deserve tangible support in their efforts to take on violent bigots and thugs,” Velázquez noted. “With this bill we’d create a dedicated source of federal funding that would go to those cities and states where these crimes have been most prevalent.”
To facilitate the reporting of hate crimes, Velázquez’s measure would provide another $20 million for hate crime hotlines and websites, which would be operated by states or local governments in collaboration with community stakeholders. Hotline operators could also work with other local health and legal programs. Under the bill, hotlines would be manned around the clock, and callers could not be asked about their immigration status.
“Victims of hate acts need an easy channel for reporting these crimes to authorities,” Velázquez noted. “By partnering with community groups and local law enforcement, we can create mechanisms where victims can safely and securely report what has happened. Not only will this assist in prosecution, but it will also serve as a further deterrent against future attacks.”
The Act also allocates $15 million for victims’ assistance through the Office for Victims of Crime in the Department Office of Justice. These funds would help nonprofits and faith-based organizations expand or create local programs that help those who have been harmed through hate crimes.
“We have to work at all levels of government to prevent hate crimes, swiftly prosecute those that occur, and show meaningful support and compassion for victims,” Velázquez added. “I’m profoundly saddened that our national discourse has emboldened white supremacists and extremists. This bill will put additional resources toward battling the harmful effects of hatred and bigotry, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in pushing this measure forward.”
Velázquez announced the bill Wednesday and said the legislation would be officially introduced in September when the House of Representatives reconvenes.
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