More than 500 incidents have been reported to the Massachusetts attorney general’s hate crime hotline since its launch three weeks ago, according to Chloe Gotsis, a spokesperson for Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.
The hotline was established after state officials saw an alarming rate of violence, bullying and harassment perpetrated against racial minorities, LGBT community, women, immigrants and other marginalized groups after Election Day, the Daily Free Press reported on Nov. 18.
The hotline has received reports of racist graffiti, harassment of minorities and interracial couples, race and gender-based bullying in schools and bigoted slurs shouted in public places, Gotsis wrote in an email.
Jack Beermann, a Boston University law professor, said the Trump administration’s lackluster commitment to civil rights is concerning.
“[Trump’s] attorney general nominee, [Jeff] Sessions, was turned down from a federal judgeship because of his bad record on civil rights, so it’s concerning that he’s going to be in charge of civil rights enforcement for the country,” Beermann said. “Based on Donald Trump’s own comments during his campaign, he doesn’t seem to be very much concerned with civil rights either.”
Beermann said the hate crime hotline is necessary in the current political climate.
“There’s a big increase in hate incidents and anti-Semitic incidents since the election,” Beermann said. “The frequency is up, and there’s a lot of incidents involving Muslims and people thought to be Muslims.”
Though he said he felt skeptical about the effectiveness of the hotline, Beermann said it is a positive step in the right direction.
“Just being there, [the hotline] is successful because it gives people an outlet … I don’t have any idea how many actual crimes it’s going to uncover, but just having the state’s attention is a good thing,” Beermann said.
Shay Stewart-Bouley, the executive director of Community Change, Inc., an organization that promotes racial equality, said Trump’s administration could potentially violate civil rights.
“[The hotline is] a good intention,” she said. “It’s a step in the right direction, but until it’s actually fully implemented and we see what effects it has, it’s too soon to say [if the hotline is effective].”
Several Boston residents said they are skeptical of the impact the hotline would have on the number of hate crimes.
Jeffrey Volk, 41, of Kenmore, said although he has not heard of the hotline before, officials should be careful when handling the calls.
“Some of those [calls] are credible and they obviously need to be investigated,” Volk said. “Right now, I think we’re a little hypersensitive socially. Trump didn’t propagate [these crimes].”
Volk said the country should return to normalcy after the presidential election.
“The election was very divisive,” Volk said. “People are on edge and I very much would like to see things settle down, but at the same point and time, you don’t ever want to discount a legitimate reporting of crime.”
Marlishia Aho, 33, of Dorchester, said she is not surprised by the number of calls that the hotline received.
“The number is on par with what’s happened nationally as far as people feeling empowered nationally by what happened with the election,” Aho said.
Tyler Allen, 34, of Brighton, also said he is not shocked by the rise in hate crimes. He expressed concern for the younger generation.
“We’re in a different kind of generation … [so] there’s more at stake now,” Allen said. “I’ve seen [hate crimes] on the news and noticed some of the stuff happening around here, too. I would say there’s probably more [crimes] than that out there. That [number is] just what’s recorded.”
Sabrina Schnur contributed to this story