Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $1,600,000)
Since the onset of the pandemic, the community of Orange County, California and the nation as a whole have been wrestling with another epidemic: hate crimes and hate-motivated behavior. In Orange County alone, 398 hate crimes and incidences were reported in 2021, according to the Orange County Human Relations Commission. This was an increase in 6% from 2020. In response to the rising tide of hate crimes and incidences, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) created a Hate Crimes Unit dedicated to the prosecution of hate-motivated crimes in our communities.
Despite our continued efforts to combat this epidemic, hate crimes—which are often fueled by online forums and social media—continue to harm and terrorize our communities. The egregiousness of hate crimes and incidences impacts not only the actual victim, but the victim’s community as well. A hate crime against one is felt among the many that identify with that particular group, whether it be based on race, religion, or sexual orientation. Thus, in order to prevent this community trauma, engagement with the community is critical. Due to budget limitations, the OCDA’s Hate Crimes Unit has focused on prosecution of crimes, but has not been able to meaningfully educate and engage the community in this important conversation. Prevention through outreach and education is a critical part of the criminal justice system, especially in the area of hate crimes.
The funding provided through this grant would be used to add one additional hate crimes prosecutor whose duties would include, in addition to prosecution, collaboration with community-based-organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the LGBTQ Center OC, the OC Human Relations Commissions, and local law enforcement agencies to conduct hate crime outreach and education.
Community education will be a key function of this project as many victims of hate crimes are reluctant to come forward because they belong to marginalized groups or have marginalized identities. The hate crimes prosecutor will increase public awareness of this topic by holding regular community meetings and giving presentations to various communities across Orange County, resulting in an outcome where marginalized individuals will feel empowered to come forward if they are a victim of or witness to a hate crime. Educational presentations will also be given to local universities to assist with upstream prevention. Law enforcement/practitioner trainings would include tools, policies, and procedures designed to increase the reporting, identification, and charging of hate crime, including victim reporting.