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Connecticut to step up investigation of hate crime probes

Hartford — Connecticut officials hope timely, stepped-up reporting of hate crime investigations by local police to a new State Police investigative unit will help lead to the prevention and detection of such crimes before something violent happens.

A new law requires all local and tribal police departments, resident state troopers, and constables with law enforcement duties to notify the new Hate Crimes Investigative Unit of a broader list of crimes involving bigotry and bias within 14 days, using a new standardized system, beginning Jan. 1. They must continue to share information about their local investigations with the State Police unit.

“Pretty much every week, every month we get a new national report about the extent of the increase in hate crimes,” said Rep. Maria Horn, D-Salisbury, co-chair of the General Assembly's Public Safety Committee. “These crimes are among the most corrosive ones we have because they go after the bonds that ties together as communities and as a state. And so I think the need is obvious.”

The new law, which was signed on March 10 by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont and highlighted during a ceremonial signing Tuesday, comes days before the State Bond Commission is scheduled to release a second $5 million allocation for security grants for houses of worship and eligible nonprofit organizations at risk of being the target of a hate crime or violent act.

FBI statistics show there were 101 hate crimes reported in 2020 in Connecticut, the most recent year for available data. Sixty-one of those crimes targeted an individual's race, ethnicity or ancestry; 17 involved a person's religion; 15 involved someone's sexual orientation; and eight involved a person's disability for multiple biases, Lamont's office said in a statement.

While the new law officially creates the Hate Crimes Investigative Unit within the Connecticut State Police, Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Commissioner James Rovella said he already formed the group in October.

The unit, which includes a sergeant and a couple of detectives, has already been working with other State Police units, local police and the FBI, investigating various complaints, including racist fliers recently distributed on several West Hartford streets by a white supremacist organization.

 

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