The Boston Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is announcing its participation in a robust nationwide effort to increase public awareness of hate crimes and encourage reporting to law enforcement.
A hate crime is defined as a violent criminal act against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. Hate crimes are often underreported to both federal, state, and local law enforcement.
Nationwide, in 2020, the number of hate crimes in the United States rose to the highest level in more than a decade. Law enforcement agencies reported a total of 7,759 hate crime incidents to the FBI which is a 25% increase in the last five years. Here in the Boston Division’s area of responsibility, which includes all of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, a total of 426 hate crime incidents were reported last year, compared to 427 incidents in 2019.
• 83 hate crime incidents were reported in Maine involving 98 victims.
• 310 hate crime incidents in Massachusetts were reported involving 408 victims.
• 19 hate crime incidents were reported in New Hampshire involving 25 victims.
• And in Rhode Island, 14 hate crime incidents were reported involving 16 victims.
The most recent hate crime statistics released by the FBI can be found here: https://crime-data-explorer.fr.cloud.gov/pages/explorer/crime/hate-crime
“We know that some people are afraid to come forward because of a fear or distrust of law enforcement, fear due to their immigration status, or a fear of retribution from their attacker. We understand that, but please know that hate crimes are a huge priority for the FBI, and we are surging resources to address this problem,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Our goal is to protect victims, help them get justice, stop violent offenders from hurting people, and deter people from committing these terrible crimes. With the launch of this public awareness campaign, we want to make everyone aware of our strategy to tackle this problem, and to proactively try and stop these crimes from happening in the first place. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community, and everyone deserves a voice.”
The FBI Boston Division’s strategy to combat hate crimes includes federal investigative activity, law enforcement partner coordination, community outreach, and public awareness:
• The FBI is encouraging the reporting of all incidents of bias and hate by expanding public education and outreach. FBI Boston has launched a social media awareness campaign and is currently running advertisements on billboards, buses, gas stations, and radio streaming services to encourage the public to report hate crimes to the FBI. Members of the public can submit information to tips.fbi.gov in any language.
• FBI Boston is actively enhancing its existing investigative resources to investigate federal hate crimes. The division has experienced, specialized FBI special agent hate crime coordinators who are training more special agents to conduct hate crime and civil rights investigations. These special agents also conduct outreach to community groups to spread awareness, build trust, and encourage additional reporting of hate crimes to the FBI.
• FBI special agents are actively working with our local, state, and tribal law enforcement partners throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, to offer assistance and training on federal hate crime statutes. FBI Boston is encouraging law enforcement partners to refer possible federal hate crime cases to the FBI. In many instances, federal investigations may run parallel to and in coordination with local law enforcement investigations of violations of state hate crime laws.
• The FBI works closely with state, local, and tribal authorities on investigations, even when federal charges are not brought. FBI resources, forensic expertise, and experience in identification and proof of hate-based motivations often provide an invaluable complement to local law enforcement hate crime cases. Many cases are also prosecuted under other state statutes such as murder, arson, assault, or vandalism.
• The FBI can investigate an incident jointly as both a hate crime and domestic terrorism investigation—the two are not mutually exclusive. Two years ago, the FBI established the Domestic Terrorism-Hate Crimes Fusion Cell, which is comprised of subject matter experts in the criminal and counterterrorism programs. This cell helps ensure seamless information sharing and augments resources. When applicable, hate crime charges can be brought in a domestic terrorism investigation, such as the 2019 Poway Synagogue shooting in San Diego, California, the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the 2016 Somali Immigrant Bomb plot in Garden City, Kansas.
• FBI Boston has been rapidly increasing outreach efforts to minority associations, religious organizations, and community groups to promote cooperation and reduce civil rights abuses. Transparency and trust are fundamental to increase the reporting of hate crime incidents to law enforcement.
The FBI is the lead investigative agency for criminal violations of federal civil rights statutes. Hate crimes are the highest priority of the FBI’s civil rights program because of the devastating impact they have on families and communities. The Bureau works to protect all victims of crimes, regardless of their country of national origin or immigration status.
If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, please call 911. If you believe you’ve been the target or victim of a hate crime, or other violation of your civil rights, please contact the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. Tips can remain anonymous and can be made in an individual’s native language. If you are a member of an impacted community and would like to engage with us in this critical work, our community outreach team can be contacted at [email protected]