(WTNH) – The rise in hate crimes nationally has put fear into many. What is behind the radicalization of groups and what are local officials doing to combat and crack down on the hate?
Lawmakers are poised to vote on a federal domestic terrorism protection act this week in Congress. It’s aimed at coordinating Homeland Security, justice, and the FBI to analyze hate crimes and decide whether they rise to domestic terrorism.
In Connecticut, the state police now have a new hate crimes unit.
“Something can happen in one town, you know, a town over, a state over, another incident happens and we have to connect those incidents,” said Sgt. Kenneth Vantresca, Hate Crimes Detective.
Racist fliers found in West Hartford and Enfield were linked to the Northeast Nationalist Social Club.
“We were able to talk to West Hartford, talk to other towns, and start tracking where these things are popping up, and you know, use video surveillance and investigative tactics,” Vantresca said.
Those tactics can strip the secrecy behind those who intend to cause harm or incite fear. The target, in many cases, is Black and Jewish communities.
“A lot more people are brazen behind a computer than they are to say something to your face,” said Sgt. Collin Richter, CT State Police Hate Crimes Unit.
The Anti-Defamation League reports a spike in hate-filled messages in Connecticut communities since 2018. The latest statistics show spikes in Meriden, Wallingford, Middletown, Waterbury, and Colchester. Each area witnessed five to 15 hate crimes linked to white supremacist groups.
In New Haven, a spray-painted Swastika on the sidewalk outside of the Jewish Community. The Hartford Jewish Federation called the act “chilling.”
In Windsor, nooses were found hanging at a construction site. The state police launched a hate crimes investigative unit to get a handle on it.
“When you have violent radical individuals or groups that influence individuals with mental illness, that’s a problem,” said Colonel Stavros Mellekas, CT State Police.
The unit was a mandate of the legislature. It is made up of detectives and seasoned sergeants, who by law, must be notified within 14 days of a hate crime.
Detectives track new trends like graffiti, stickers, and fliers by radicalized groups. The hate crime bill was signed by the governor earlier this month.
University of New Haven Professor Mike Lawlor wrote the state’s 1999 Red Flag Gun Law, which is the first of its kind in the nation aimed at preventing mass shootings.
It gives family members, and in some cases, police officers, the power to obtain swift, temporary court orders from a judge to confiscate firearms from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.
A court hearing follows and the individual will have the opportunity to contest a permanent order.
Twenty-six million dollars in federal assistance will go toward hate crime reporting systems, hotlines, and training.
If you are the victim of a hate crime, contact your local police or report it to the new hate crime unit here.