Letter: “As Attorneys General, we are on the frontlines of protecting public safety and ensuring that everyone in our jurisdiction can live their lives free of hate and discrimination”
SALT LAKE CITY (4/13/2021) – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has responded to the national rise in hate crimes by joining a bipartisan coalition, urging Congress to pass the Jabara-Heyer No Hate Act. The legislation would provide state and local governments and law enforcement agencies with the tools and resources to understand, identify, and report hate crimes to help prevent them.
This is an issue of personal importance to Attorney General Reyes, who said: “I have been on the receiving end of hateful threats and violence. From the time I was young, I have witnessed friends and family victimized by the trauma of intolerance and the cruelty and terror of hate. It is one of the reasons I take this threat so seriously. And, as a law enforcement leader, I feel even more responsibility to hold violent, hate fueled perpetrators accountable.”
The legislation specifically aims to help rectify inaccurate and incomplete data by providing federal grants to improve hate crimes reporting. The grants would be used to train employees on identifying, classifying, and reporting hate crimes in the FBI’s national database; assist with states’ development of programs to prevent hate crimes; increase community education around hate crimes; and create state-run hate crime hotlines.
In the letter to Congress, the attorneys general write: “For more than two decades, thousands of city, county, college and university, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies have voluntarily submitted hate crimes data to the FBI. However, based on the FBI’s 2019 report, most law enforcement agencies did not participate or reported zero incidents. Exacerbating this gap, less than 25% of law enforcement agencies are using the FBI’s current reporting system, which took effect this year. This lack of data creates critical gaps that inhibit our understanding of the hate problem. As the chief legal officers of our respective jurisdictions and states, improving hate crimes reporting is a priority. Without reliable statistics, the government cannot properly understand, investigate, and prosecute hate crimes or provide necessary resources to survivors.
“It took us many years to pass the most recent hate crimes bill in Utah,” said Attorney General Reyes. “But we came together from diverse backgrounds and across different political ideologies to strengthen our communities with a unified voice decrying discrimination, violence, and the terrorism of hate.”
AG Reyes continued: “Today, we must do the same on a national level and ensure that violent crimes—motivated by hate—are identified, reported and then prosecuted. These crimes occur in Utah and every state of our nation. Whether based on religion, race, sexual orientation or other identifier, threats and violent acts of bigotry have no acceptable place in our society.”
The letter is led by president of the National Association of Attorneys General, District of Columbia AG Karl Racine. AG Racine launched a yearlong initiative in December 2020 called the People v. Hate. The initiative aims to raise awareness of hate and bias, prevent hate from taking root in our communities, support residents who have experienced hate, and develop and share best practices on improving hate crime data.
AG Racine co-led this letter with AG Schmidt, and they were joined by the attorneys general of Alaska, American Samoa, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, N. Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virgin Islands, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.