NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut is seeing an alarming increase in incidents of hate and hate crimes. A News 8 investigation examined which cities and towns seem to be targeted the most and why authorities have difficulty prosecuting these people.
Extremist groups claim they are just anti-communism, but that’s not it at all. These groups, like NCN-131 and Patriot Front, are white supremacists, neo-Nazis and anti-LGBTQ. And they have members living right here in Connecticut.
News 8 Investigative Reporter Jeff Derderian spoke with the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chapter. The number of hate incidents reported in the last 20 days or so may surprise you. Stacey Sobel, the regional head of the ADL, said it’s concerning.
“Here in Connecticut, we have tracked an almost 300% increase in hate incidents reported to our office,” Sobel said. “These include vandalism and harassment and assault.”
A newly formed unit within the Connecticut State Police has dedicated detectives who work on hate crimes. The challenge with prosecuting these people, authorities said, is that there is a blurred line between what is an actual hate crime and someone’s rights. Det. Alvin Chen with the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force told News 8 that people reporting any hate incident is vital so they can investigate as soon as possible.
“You might not be the first one targeted,” Chen said. “The more data we have, the more we can hold it against the criminal.”
State police said it is a challenge to prosecute these groups because they often push it right up to the line of what is a crime and what is a person’s First Amendment right. For example, passing out flyers with hate propaganda in a neighborhood is not against the law. It would need to be followed with an actual crime like vandalism or assault to make it a hate crime.
Symbols of hate have been found in multiple parts of the state. Recently, hateful messages were sent in the form of e-mails and voicemails to Muslim and Palestinian students at UConn. At the end of October, in Old Lyme, campaign signs were defaced with swastikas and profane images.
News 8 found that certain cities and towns are being targeted with incidents of hate compared to other locations around the state.
According to the latest state police data, New Britain has the most hate incidents, with 19. New Haven is next with nine, followed by Torrington with seven.
Legal experts say the best thing to do if you are the victim of a hate crime or know someone who is a victim is to call your local police department. You should also contact the Connecticut State Police Hate Crimes Unit or the FBI. The FBI can be reached at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). You can also submit an anonymous tip to the FBI by emailing Tips@fbi.gov.