HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY — Hate crimes are on the rise in the U.S. According to the FBI, 2017 marked the third straight year that the number of incidents increased. Now state officials are looking to try to reverse that trend.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro hosted a roundtable discussion Thursday in Harrisburg. The goal? To prevent violence motivated by discrimination.
“I think the more we listen in law enforcement, the more we can better represent the communities and keep people safe,” Shapiro said.
And listening is what Shapiro set out to do Thursday at a roundtable discussion at the YMCA of Greater Harrisburg.
Josh Shapiro: “The rule of law applies to everyone. No matter what they look like, or where they come from, or who they love, or who they pray to or choose not to pray to,” Shapiro said.
The roundtable not only included state officials and lawmakers, but also community members sharing their stories of discrimination.
“I think it’s great for the voices around the table. Those individuals who are most affected by issues of hate and bias and racism. For them to be able to actually tell their story and to be heard,” YWCA Greater Harrisburg CEO Mary Quinn said.
“To let people know that racism is alive and, unfortunately, well here in Pennsylvania,” Dauphin County representative Patty Kim said.
Representatives Patty Kim and Dan Frankel also discussed solutions like a package of bills recently introduced and supported by the Attorney General to strengthen hate crime laws in Pennsylvania, increasing penalties, establishing a hate group database and training police officers to identify hate crimes.
“It’s very different if somebody is putting up some graffiti on a traffic sign, as opposed to putting a swastika on a mosque or a synagogue. Those are two very different things, and they need to be treated differently,” Allegheny County representative Dan Frankel said.
And Thursday was the first roundtable discussion. The Attorney General says he plans to host more of these in the future.
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