Attorney General Healey: State fighting back against hate crimes

From bomb threats to beatings, recent hate crimes and incidents in Massachusetts have many communities on edge.

7NEWS sat down with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey to find out what’s being done to stop it.

Banana peels tossed onto a black family’s driveway. Racially charged letters left on a doorstep. The beating of a woman thought to be an immigrant on the T.

All have taken place since Election Day in the Boston area.

“This isn’t a matter of political correctness. This is actually the law. You can’t violate people’s civil rights. You can’t commit hate crimes,” Healey said. “I think certainly after the election, we’ve seen here in Massachusetts and around this country, increased reporting of hate incidents.”

That’s due, in part, to the hate crime hotline Healey’s office set up in November.

Through mid-March, that phone had rung nearly 1,800 times, with more than 250 of the calls containing definitive allegations. Among those calls, according to Healey’s office, were a man loudly making anti-Semitic comments outside a bar mitzvah, and an Airbnb host who made offensive remarks to a black guest, then kicked her out.

“This is stuff we cannot tolerate,” Healey said.

While calls to the hotline often don’t lead to criminal charges, Healey said attorneys and investigators work to resolve them in other ways. The anti-Semitic comments call led to an apology, while Airbnb banned that particular host from its site.

“A lot of groups are feeling targeted,” said Robert Trestan, regional director of an Anti-Defamation League of New England.

Two days before 7NEWS spoke with Trestan, the ADL’s Boston office received a bomb threat – one of a slew targeting Jewish organizations nationwide.

“It’s certainly unnerving and very disruptive when that calls comes in,” Trestan said.

Trestan said there’s no disputing the recent hike in heinous acts.

“No community or school is immune from a hate incident. But what is important is, how do they respond?” Trestan said.

For Healey, it’s about both enforcement and deterrence.

“I also want community members, and particularly those who may perpetrate hate crimes, to know that we’re watching you,” Healey said.

Proving hate incidents are on the rise is nearly impossible. That’s because tracking is spotty, and most are never reported to police.

Still, 7NEWS found at least 15 criminal civil rights violation cases filed in Massachusetts since Election Day.

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