A new state police unit will be dedicated full-time to investigating, tracking and preventing hate crimes in Massachusetts, Gov. Maura Healey announced Monday.
Healey said crimes motivated by hate and bias undermine people's sense of security, threaten communities and are "corrosive to our democracy and to our freedoms."
"One hate crime is too many, and we're seeing more than one a day in Massachusetts," Healey said. "So it's necessary that we say firmly and forcefully, whatever the bias, whoever the target, hate has no place in Massachusetts. Antisemitism has no place. Racism has no place. Islamophobia has no place. Homophobia and transphobia have no place. Ableism has no place."
The announcement comes as recorded hate crimes have been on the rise in Massachusetts. The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security tracked 440 reports of hate crime incidents across the state last year, the highest total in 20 years.
Supporters of the new unit acknowledged the timely nature of the announcement. In statements circulated by the governor’s office, Richard Burns of GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders noted that Monday marks Transgender Day of Remembrance, and Rabbi Mark Baker pointed to a surge in antisemitic incidents “causing fear and anxiety throughout Greater Boston’s Jewish community.”
About the new unit
The new Hate Crimes Awareness and Response Team, operating within the Massachusetts State Police, will collect data on local, national and global trends and develop advanced training for law enforcement
The team, consisting of four to five sworn State Police officers assigned to geographic regions, will also boost educational outreach and streamline coordination between different levels of law enforcement, Healey’s office said.
Interim State Police Col. John Mawn Jr. said the team will be made up of “a diverse and multilingual group of troopers who have demonstrated exceptional investigative experience and skill.”
“Their work will continue to build upon the many proactive initiatives and strong partnerships in Massachusetts, where our level of public safety coordination is unprecedented,” Mawn said. “The MSP’s new HART unit will strengthen those connections and enhance our resolve to confront and deter unlawful acts of hate while ensuring the Commonwealth's ability to celebrate our diversity and uphold our values.”
Healey administration officials also announced $462,000 in hate crime prevention grants that will support 10 school districts’ efforts in tackling hate and bias incidents.
The grants will go to Burlington, Medway, Granby, Lenox, Gloucester, Framingham, North Reading, Bedford, Newton and the Gateway Regional School District in western Massachusetts.
Schools that have experienced hate crimes or bias incidents in the past two years and were not awarded funding this year can apply by Dec. 20 for the next round of grants, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll said.