The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced it would allocate $21 million to assist the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes amid a surge in crimes based on race, gender, sexual identity and disability. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday announced plans to earmark $21 million to prosecute hate crimes and provide assistance to hate crime victims.
The Office of Justice Programs will provide funding to state, local and tribal agencies, and community organizations to help them address increasing crimes against individuals and property on the basis of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
"Hate crimes instill fear across entire communities. They have profoundly negative and unacceptable effects on our society," Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said in a statement. "The department is committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat unlawful acts of hate."
In August, the FBI found that U.S. hate crimes rose to their highest levels in 12 years during 2020, with law enforcement agencies submitting reports involving 7,764 criminal incidents and 10,539 related offenses.
A Justice Department report released in July also found that state lawyers only prosecuted 17% of the 1,864 suspects accused of committing a hate crime between 2005 and 2019 with 1% having been disposed of by U.S. magistrates.
Under a program named in honor of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., a 21-year-old gay man and 49-year-old Black man, respectively, who were both killed in separate hate crime incidents in 1998, the Bureau of Justice Assistance will award $8.4 million in site-based funding and training and technical assistance to combat hate crimes.
A 2009 law named after the two men allowed the Justice Department to prosecute crimes motivated by race, color, religion and national origin without showing a victim was engaged in a federally protected activity and gave the department the authority to prosecute crimes based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability.
Additionally, the BJA will make $1.5 million in site-based awards to the Emmet Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016 to help solve cold case civil rights murders occurring before Dec. 31, 1979.
The Office for Victims of Crimes has also awarded $2 million to respond to individuals and communities victimized by hate crimes, and the National Institue of Justice has provided $7.5 million in support of research to better understand domestic radicalization and strategies to prevent domestic terrorism.