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San Diego US Attorney Discusses Rise In Reported Hate Crimes

November 28, 2018 1:40 p.m.

San Diego U.S. Attorney Discusses Rise In Reported Hate Crimes


Adam Braverman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California

Related Story: San Diego US Attorney Discusses Rise In Reported Hate Crimes


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

it could be your religion your race or your sexual orientation that makes you the target of a hate crime here in San Diego.

Recent FBI data show there was a 15 percent jump in hate crimes in 2017. Nationwide the number is even higher with a 17 percent jump as these incidents unfold. It's evidence of a dark sickness once again emerging in the country. Here in San Diego U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman is taking part in a community forum tonight called Stop the hate held by the San Diego Regional hate crimes coalition. He joins me now. Adam thanks for being here. Thank you. Now we know hate crimes are on the rise around the world and San Diego hasn't been exempt.

What do you think is driving the increase in hate crimes.

I believe that I think we've seen an increase in hate crimes because we've seen an increase in hate speech spread through social media and other public forums. It becomes a lot easier in the past several years with these with social media and being able to get people's messages out which I think is leading to an increase in actual hate crimes.

And what do you hope the regional hate crimes coalition can accomplish.

We want to get the message out to the community that hate and violence on the basis of race religion or sexual orientation will not be tolerated on the Department of Justice prioritizes these types of offenses and we want to prevent them and we want to prosecute them. But what we need is we need for community members that are subject to these hate crimes for them to report it because we believe that a lot of these hate crimes are unreported and frankly law enforcement can't do anything about it unless the public reports these crimes.

And why has it been difficult for people to come forward and report these crimes.

I think unfortunately many members of our public that are victims of hate crimes come from other countries other cultures that do not have a good relationship with law enforcement and don't trust law enforcement. And so one of the things that we want to do through these different community forums that we've been hosting is letting the public know many of them recent immigrants to our country that the FBI and the Department of Justice stands by them and we want to prevent and prosecute those individuals committing these crimes.

And are there any challenges in either bringing charges or prosecuting hate crimes.

There's certainly there's not challenges other than we just need people to report it. One of the concerns that I think we have in the Department of Justice is the underreporting by not only community members but also by police departments nationwide. One of the statistics that really shocks me is that 88 percent of the police departments that report crimes to the FBI each year reported zero hate crimes last year. And we know that's simply not the case so one of the things that the Department of Justice has been doing is trying to fund studies and fund programs for the department to work with local police departments about properly recognizing and categorizing crimes as hate crimes.

And what do recent hate crime statistics reveal about our community here.

Well I think it's generally attracts both in California and nationwide that roughly 60 percent of hate crimes are race and ethnicity base 20 percent are religion and 16 percent or sexual orientation. One of the areas that we've really seen a huge rise in is in anti-Semitic hate crimes. And so this past year there was a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes.

And so so many people who commit hate crimes have ties to domestic terrorist organizations like the KKK and neo nazis. From where you sit as a prosecutor do hate crimes and terrorism intersect.

100 percent.

And the Department of Justice is going to be vigilant in prosecuting those individuals and we know of efforts to thwart terrorist attacks from international groups in the U.S. what would it take to prevent hate crimes and domestic terrorism.

I think it's getting the message out to the community. I mean law enforcement is very vigilant about it whether you know whether the community reports hate crimes on Facebook or other social media platforms U.S. law enforcement will respond immediately and investigate those individuals and prosecute those individuals and bring those cases to our office.

You know last week we did an interview about the hate group Autum Waffen or Adam WAAF and rather the Adam WAF Division. Those followers are said to have committed a number of hate crimes including the murder of a gay Jewish college student in Orange County last year. Are you aware of any members of the group operating here in San Diego County or recruitment efforts.

I am not specifically with respect to that group but that is a you know a real concern for the Department of Justice. Much of the hate crimes legislation really grew out you know 20 years ago when Matthew Shepard was taken by two men. They beat him robbed him tied him to a fence post leaving him to die simply because he was gay. And that really that that incident as well as another incident 20 years ago where an African-American man named James Byrd was also taken and killed by white supremacists in Texas. Those two hate crimes spurred legislation called the Shepard Byrd Hate Crimes Act that much and that many of our prosecutions are based under and so now your office is really taking the lead in bringing the community to the table to talk about this growing problem.

Tell me a bit more about to stop the hate community form happening tonight.

Yes. So tonight we will be speaking with community members the FBI Special Agent in Charge John Brown will be there. I will be there. Members of the DA's office the city attorney's office the Anti Defamation League and other members of the community will be there together to talk about hate crimes. Educating the community about what hate crimes are and what hate speech is. And then really encouraging them to report hate crimes and giving them the information and the resources about how to report hate crimes and how can people get a seat at the table to be part of this conversation or attend the community forums simply show up tonight 6:00 p.m. at the Santa Fe room at the bubble of Park Club and we will be hosting this and any committee member that would like to come is welcome to show up.

I've been speaking with U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California Adam Braverman. Adam thank you so much for your time today. Thank you so much.