JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several Northeast Florida law enforcement agencies are joining the FBI Jacksonville Division in their efforts to combat hate crimes.
On Thursday, Special Agent in Charge Sherri E. Onks shared the “United Against Hate” campaign details during a news conference.
“No one should be afraid to walk down the street,” Onks said.
During the press conference, officials expressed their concern over an increase in hate crimes across the country.
According to the FBI, in 2022, there were 11,634 hate crimes across the country. Of those, 59% were motivated by race, 17% by religion, and 17% by sexual orientation. That’s an increase of almost 36% in the last five years.
Florida has not been immune to this increase, officials said.
In July, a Jacksonville man pleaded guilty in federal court for attacking two Black women two days apart. The first incident took place at a convenience store. His card was declined. So he left the store came back with a shotgun, pointed at her and loaded it. She ran in fear throughout the entire corner, officials said.
RELATED | Jacksonville activists address a violent attack on a woman at an Arlington gas station
In August, three innocent people were killed in a shooting at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville by a gunman with a swastika-painted rifle. This shooting is also being investigated as a federal hate crime.
“These are not the only recent examples. These are just a few that when our agencies and other law enforcement partners around Northern Florida come together, we bring the full extent of our investigative resources and will aggressively seek justice for the victims of hate crimes,” Onks said.
The sheriffs from Nassau County, Clay County, Jacksonville and St. Johns County joined the FBI Jacksonville Division and the State Attorney’s Office to show their support for the campaign.
“Never forget, law enforcement is here to protect you. No one in our community should have to live in fear. We need to speak out against hate crimes,” Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper, who’s also president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, said.
While law enforcement agencies have been fighting against these crimes for decades, officials said they are now taking a more proactive approach to combat the increasing cases.
Part of the United Against Hate campaign aims to raise awareness and educate the community on how to identify and report hate crimes, as federal civil rights investigators believe these types of crimes remain underreported due to fear.
“We are encouraging potential victims of hate crime to seek help and we want to ensure that you know where to go,” Onks said.
The FBI has also published a new Hate Crime Threat Response Guide that has information on how to handle hate threats and violence.
Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.
Post source: News 4jax