Hate Crime Prosecution and Victim Support | Not in Our Town

Hate Crime Prosecution and Victim Support

By Victor Hwang, Hate Crimes Prosecutor, San Francisco District Attorney's Office

Five Things Law Enforcement Can Do

1. Be Proactive in Community Outreach
Affirmative outreach to communities not used to working with the police will make it easier for them to reach out and report when something does happen.

2. Establish a Specialized Hate Crimes Unit
Setup a designated point of contact who can work hand-in-hand with the D.A. and the public to spot trends, to be a friendly point of contact for the department, and to do outreach and education.

3. Form a Law Enforcement-Community Coalition
Establish a law enforcement-community coalition to share ongoing hate crimes prosecutions (what is appropriate to share publicly) and community concerns.  

4. Form a Regional Hate Crimes Task Force
Form a regional task force that includes local and federal law enforcement, parole, and community groups. Many hate groups operate across borders and also in and out of prisons.

5. Work closely with Victim Witness Units
Even in cases where no perpetrator is identified, make referrals to victim witness units and to community groups to make sure the victim’s needs are addressed.

Five Things Communities Can Do

1. Outreach/Educate Community on Hate Crimes
Many times, particularly for immigrant communities, they don’t necessarily understand the law of hate crimes and the importance of documenting and reporting what may have been said during an incident.

2. Organize and React
Support victims not only of your community, but build bridges with other communities as well.

3. Work On and With Law Enforcement
Reach out to police and prosecutors on cases and help supply the context for assessing why certain cases should be charged as hate crimes.  Attend court hearings and work with media.

4. Bear Witness
Victims may often not be able to remember details from an attack or may be traumatized by the incident.  Be prepared to call 911, report details, and bear witness, if necessary.

5. Intervene Early
If hate crimes are the top tip of the intolerance pyramid, there are many opportunities to intervene earlier to either slow the build-up of a hostile environment and/or let a victim know that he/she has support.  Speak out against hate speech and intolerance, organize against scapegoating, and work to create a safe environment for all.