When it comes to reporting hate crimes, the FBI says there is hesitancy and they want to change that. They are launching an advertising campaign to encourage people to come together and speak out.
“We are very concerned about witnesses and victims to hate crimes being comfortable reporting those crimes,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of Hate Crimes David Sundberg.
Few specifics were provided about what is being done to make people feel more comfortable, only that the FBI is urging people to come together.
“This means enhanced collaboration between the FBI and its local and state law enforcement partners but also with members of the community,” said Sundberg.
Among the reasons Sunderberg says he believes some people are uncomfortable reporting these crimes is because of language and immigration barriers. Rev. Steve Cousin, an advocate for New Haven’s Black community says the problem runs deeper than that.
“There are those in my community who do not feel comfortable reporting any crime for fear of retribution or fear the crime would never be solved,” explained Cousin.
The church where Cousin is the pastor was recently a target of violence. Cousin says 14 shots were fired into the Bethel AME Church while it was empty last month.
“The very first question we had to ask was, what is this a hate a crime,” he said.
Cousin says police told him they did not believe it was a hate crime but still there is doubt.
“You can’t help but to think, and that’s always in the back of your head, is it due to discrimination? So, we live with that every day,” Cousin explained.
Cousin is not alone. According to a University of California, study done in 16 major American cities, hate crimes rose by more than 33% between 2014 and 2019.
“I think we’re in a battle for the reassertion of the positive values and what good people stand for,” said Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven CEO Judy Alperin.
Alperin says she has seen a rise in anti-Semitic activity in Connecticut. Alperin says her building in Woodbridge was vandalized with a swastika and received a bomb threat recently.
According to state numbers from 2019, there were 77 hate crimes in Connecticut. That includes 49 based on race and 15 on religion. Both Alperin and Cousin would like to see that trend reversed.
“We have to make sure that these few individuals do not overcome or make us doubt what we believe,” said Cousin.
Alperin echoed those thoughts.
“I really believe that there’s so many more good people (than bad) and it’s possible to overcome this,” she said.