U.S. Attorney’s Office hosts first event for United Against Hate Initiative

    A photo taken of the panel at Alaska's first United Against Hate Initiative event on Sept. 7. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska)

    Anchorage, Alaska (KINY) - This event is the first in a series of community events in Alaska, and Alaskan communities interested in participating are encouraged to reach out.

    The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska is partnering with Federal, State, and local law enforcement to deliver a series of community events designed to educate the public about hate crimes, hate incidents, and discrimination.

    The events are part of the U.S. Justice Department’s "United Against Hate" initiative.

    United Against Hate is a nationwide initiative focused on convening local forums that connect community groups to Federal, State, and local law enforcement to increase community understanding and reporting of hate crimes; build trust between law enforcement and communities; and create and strengthen alliances between law enforcement and other government partners and community groups to combat unlawful acts of hate.

    The program was launched in Sept. 2022, and Alaska's event series began in Sept. 2023. The program is designed to roll out across the country to all 94 U.S. Attorney's Offices eventually. Last year, 16 offices were reached.

    The first outreach event was held in Anchorage on Sept. 7, 2023, at the Anchorage library.

    It featured a joint presentation from Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials and prosecutors.

    An official from the U.S. Justice Department’s Community Relations Service was in attendance as well.

    The presentation included information regarding the differences between hate crimes and hate incidents, anti-discrimination laws, and the importance of reporting acts of hate to law enforcement.

    Participants were invited to share views on how law enforcement can best support LGBTQ2SIA+ community members who experience a hate crime or incident.

    The event also included a panel of Federal, State, and local law enforcement personnel. Participants in the panel included:

    •    U.S. Attorney Tucker
    •    Supervisory Special Agent Andy Smith, FBI Anchorage White Collar Squad Supervisor
    •    Jenna Gruenstein, Alaska Department of Law, Chief Assistant Attorney General
    •    Captain Tony Wegrzyn, Alaska State Troopers
    •    Deputy Chief Sean Case, Anchorage Police Department

    "The United Against Hate initiative serves as an avenue to protect our communities, share methods for reporting, encourage reporting of hateful acts, and educate community leaders and members on laws surrounding hate crimes and discrimination," said U.S. Attorney S. Lane Tucker for the District of Alaska. "We were honored to share the stage with leaders and first responders yesterday as we discussed this important topic. The conversations had at the recent event are a crucial step in combatting acts of hate in the LGBTQ2SIA+ community and continuing to build important relationships between law enforcement and communities in Alaska."

    Morgan Walker is an Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska.

    She emphasized that one of the most important parts of their goal is to invite people to report the incident they are experiencing.

    According to an NCVS factsheet, statistics from 2010-2019 showed a stark difference between hate crimes reported to law enforcement compared to hate crimes reported through the national survey.

    During 2010-19, the NCVS captured an annual average of 243,770 hate crime victimizations of persons age 12 or older. (See Appendix Table 1.)

    Restricting the NCVS to crimes that were reported to police and confirmed by police investigators as hate crimes enhances the compatibility of the NCVS and UCR measures. 

    About 44% (107,850) of the overall count of hate crime victimizations during 2010-19 were reported to police. Of those reported to police, 13% (13,850) were confirmed by police investigators as hate crimes, according to victims. (The remaining 87% (94,000) of those reported to police met the NCVS definition of a hate crime because the offender(s) used hate language or left hate symbols at the crime scene.)

    The UCR recorded an annual average of 7,830 hate crime victims during this same period.

    A bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity, or national origin was the most common motivation for nonfatal violent hate crimes during 2015-19.

    Below: Appendix Table 1. Hate crime victimizations, by type of crime, 2005–2019. Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2005–2019.

    For Alaska statistics specifically, only nine hate crimes were collected statewide through collaboration with the FBI internally for 2021, Walker said. She said that personally, that doesn't seem to add up with the experiences shared with her by people in the community.

    Walker recognized that there are many factors as to why someone may choose not to report a hate crime. She hopes the initiative will create an open dialogue between law enforcement and members of the community.

    "I'm a member of the community myself. So, I'm both a federal prosecutor and a member of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community. I recognize in those two different roles, that there really is a trust gap and an information gap. When I put on my law enforcement hat, what I want to do is making sure that I am being candid and accessible and helping members of the public understand what we in law enforcement can do," she said. "And then also, as a member of the community, part of my role is to assist law enforcement in understanding the historical, social, and cultural reasons why members of the community are distrustful and may have reticence to report, and for very good reasons."

    Walker has been a prosecutor in Alaska for more than a decade. Previously, she was a state prosecutor focusing on sex crimes committed against adults and children. Now, as a federal prosecutor, she handles a wide variety of cases.

    "One of the things I've noticed throughout my time working in the state is that there's a huge gap between victim's confidence in law enforcement and the crimes that they're subjected to, and tragically, that has the effect of making people understandably reluctant and fearful to report things to law enforcement," she said. "We happen to know from research that victims report a wide variety of barriers to reporting."

    About 2 in 5 violent hate crime victimizations not reported to police were handled another way.

    During 2015-19, approximately 42% of violent hate crime victimizations were not reported to police (figure 2).

    The most common reason that victims gave for not reporting to police was that the victimization was handled another way (38% of victimizations not reported to police), such as privately or through a non-law enforcement official.

    About one-quarter (23%) of violent hate crime victimizations not reported to police involved victims who believed that police could not or would not do anything to help.

    In about 16% of violent hate crime victimizations not reported to police, the victim believed that the crime was not important enough to report to police.

    In 14% of violent hate crime victimizations not reported to police, victims indicated that there was another reason for not reporting, that it was too inconvenient, or that no one reason was most important. Another 5% were not reported to police because the victim feared reprisal.

    Below: Figure 2. Violent hate crime victimizations, by reporting to police and most important reason for not reporting, 2015–19. Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Crime Victimization Survey, 2015–19.

    Walker said no matter the barrier someone is facing around reporting a hate crime, it's important for people to know that they are valuable members of the community and that their rights are important to protect.

    Future events will focus on communicating with different communities across the state. Walker encouraged community leaders or local law enforcement to reach out and organize additional events as part of the United Against Hate initiative. She anticipates they will be traveling around the state to spread the message.

    "The goal is to broaden the community engagement so that it's not merely community leaders, but it's also really open to more members of the community," she stated. "Because we know that we can't solve this problem just by talking to the heads of organizations, but really by making sure that we as law enforcement are accessible to everyone in the community."

    These events will include collaboration, support hate crime prevention efforts, and further encourage the reporting of hate crimes and incidents.

    "We at the U.S. Attorney's Office would invite anyone to contact us if they are interested in learning more about United Against Hate, or in partnering with us or other law enforcement agencies to build community engagement regarding fighting hate crimes," Walker said. "They're welcome to email us at USAAK.UAH@usdoj.gov. If folks are interested in picking up the phone and calling, we're open and ready to take your calls, our number is 907-271-5071."

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