WORLD / AMERICAS
US Attorney General launches review on hate crime prosecutions, data collection
Published: Mar 31, 2021 07:13 PM
Amid reports of a rising number of hate crimes against Asian Americans, US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday announced that he is launching a 30-day "expedited review" into how the US Justice Department can bolster its efforts to prosecute hate crimes and improve data collection of these types of incidents.

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on February 22, in Washington DC, the US. Photo: VCG

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland testifies during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on February 22, in Washington DC, the US. Photo: VCG

In his first memo to employees since taking over the helm of the department earlier in March, Garland said he wants to find ways to improve reporting and subsequent tracking of hate crimes, "prioritize criminal investigations and prosecutions," work with civil authorities to address cases of bias which may not rise to the statutory definition of a hate crime and better engage communities across the US.

Officials will also work to ensure that every US 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, according to the Washington Times on Tuesday. 

The recent rise in incidents "requires renewed energy and emphasis on investigation and prosecution, increased community outreach, and the improved collection of data critical to understanding the evolving nature and extent of hate crimes and hate incidents in all their forms," Garland wrote.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been raising the alarm over a rise in violence against the communities since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The incidence of hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by 149 percent in 2020 in 16 major cities compared with 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

The community's fears were heightened recently by the fatal shooting of eight people on March 16 at Atlanta-area spas, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

Police have expressed skepticism that race played a role in the actions of suspected gunman Robert Aaron Long, but Asian-American community advocates and lawmakers including Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Asian-American herself, say they believe the shooting was a hate crime. 

The US Senate on March 10 voted to confirm Merrick Garland to be US President Joe Biden's attorney general.

Senators voted 70-30 on Garland's nomination to lead the Justice Department, showing solid bipartisan support from both the Democrat and Republican parties.
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