Five months after the deadly mass shooting that killed 10 Black people and injured three others at a Buffalo, N.Y. supermarket, the Justice Department started an initiative aimed at combatting unlawful acts of hate across Buffalo. The United Against Hate initiative will connect federal, state and local law enforcement with marginalized communities to "build trust" and encourage people to report hate crimes and incidents, NPR reports. DOJ will expand the program to all 94 U.S. Attorneys' offices over the next year. The Buffalo U.S. Attorney's office will begin to engage with communities across western New York in the hope of deepening connections in the community will encourage them to report acts of hate.
Some experts and those in Buffalo are skeptical about the Justice Department's vision for the initiative. "I think any type of program or legislation towards addressing hate crimes and in different things is a start," said James Ponzo II, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Buffalo. "But far too often, which we already know, things seem to start but stall and die out. Time will tell whether or not it's really effective or whether it's a publicity stunt." The initiative in Buffalo comes as new programs for reporting bias incidents are being put into place at the state and federal levels. In May, the Justice Department announced new guidelines and $10 million in new federal grants to help states develop hotlines for reporting incidents. DOJ has issued guidance along with the Department of Health and Human Services aimed at raising awareness of hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the nation experienced a surge of hate crimes and incidents against Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities.