Attorney General Merrick Garland Tuesday initiated a 30-day expedited review of how the Justice Department can better crack down on hate crimes.
The review will look into how to increase the reporting and subsequent tracking of hate crimes, prioritize criminal investigations, use civil remedies to address unlawful acts of bias that don’t rise to the level of a hate crime, and better engage communities across the United States.
Officials will also work to ensure that every U.S. Attorney’s Office has resources dedicated to identifying and prosecuting hate crimes as well as better align investigative efforts between the FBI and federal prosecutors.
“While this effort remains ongoing, the department will continue to seek justice for the victims of hate-fueled mass murders that we have seen too many times in the past several years,” Mr. Garland wrote in the memo.
The directive is the first major public action Mr. Garland has announced since becoming attorney general three weeks ago.
Mr. Garland in his memo cited the “disturbing trend in reports of violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
A study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the University of California San Bernardino found that hate crimes directed toward Asian Americans increased by nearly 150 percent between 2019 and 2020. However, the overall numbers remained low with only 122 incidents reported last year compared to 49 in 2019, the study said.
Some Asian American groups say that number is too low. Stop AAPI Hate says there were 3,800 incidents of hate targeting Asians last year.
The acting deputy attorney general and the principal deputy associate attorney general will oversee the review.
At his Senate confirmation hearing last month, Mr. Garland vowed to prioritize hate crimes.
“Hate crimes tear at the fabric of our society,” he told lawmakers. “The role of the [Justice Department’s] Civil Rights Division is to prosecute those cases vigorously, and I can assure you that it will if I am confirmed.”
The announcement comes on the same day President Biden unveiled new steps to combat anti-Asian violence, including a $50 million grant program for survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
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