Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered the Justice Department on Tuesday to conduct a review on combating hate crimes amid increased scrutiny on reports of assault against Asian Americans.
The attorney general issued a department-wide memo announcing the 30-day review, citing the “recent rise in hate crimes and hate incidents, particularly the disturbing trend in reports of violence against members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community since the start of the pandemic.”
His order comes as a number of police departments are reporting an uptick in hate crimes. Meanwhile, reports of assaults against Asian Americans across the country have garnered increased media attention and have been shared prolifically across social media.
The Epoch Times has previously explored the issue and found that some Asian Americans have been facing racially motivated incidents and attacks for years, but the extent of the problem varies depending on the source. Experts have said that this is partly due to underreporting and other complexities such as, for example, the overall uptick in crimes in an area. Some experts have also warned about politicizing the issue, including by the Chinese Communist Party which has exploited the recent narrative to push its own propaganda to further divide the United States.
Garland asked in the memo that federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials prioritize investigating and prosecuting hate crimes while increasing community outreach.
The purpose of the DOJ review is to determine how the Justice Department prioritizes investigations and prosecutions, and to track reporting of hate crimes and other incidents that could violate federal law. It will also look at how civil remedies could be used to address incidents that are motivated by bias that don’t amount to federal hate crimes.
A hate crime, according to the FBI, is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
Legal experts have told The Epoch Times that since hate crimes have a more complex intent requirement that prosecutors have to prove, it is often difficult to secure a conviction under the statute.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment on the memo.
Last week, prosecutors charged a Seattle man with a felony hate crime after he allegedly threatened multiple Asian Americans on two separate occasions. He was also charged with malicious harassment under Washington’s hate crime statute.
The man, who is a well-known Black Lives Matter activist, used offensive language and threw unknown objects toward at least five Asians on two separate occasions.
The Associated Press and Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.