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United Against Hate Takeaway: Reporting Key to Combating Hate Crimes

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos speaks at the United Against Hate event held June 18, 2024, at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. On his left is Tucson Police Department Chief Chad Kasmar. Other local law enforcement panelists included Mark Hotchkiss, bureau chief of the Pima County Attorney’s Office, and Chris Carlsen, unit chief counsel with the civil rights division of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

If you experience or witness antisemitism or an incident that might be a hate crime, don’t hesitate to report it.

That message was repeated over and over at a United Against Hate event that drew about 150 people to the Tucson Jewish Community Center on June 18.

United States Attorney General Merrick B. Garland created United Against Hate, a nationwide community outreach program, in 2022. Events in other cities have focused on the concerns of various groups, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Muslims, Jews, and the LGBTQI+ community. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Tucson Police Department presented the June 18 program, the first in Tucson, with Jewish Philanthropies of Southern Arizona and the Tucson J as sponsors.

The event featured more than a dozen panelists and speakers from federal and local law enforcement and the local Jewish community.

Many reminded audience members to call 911 to report a crime in progress or immediately after.

Beyond 911, several reporting options exist, including a new Incident Report form that is part of JPSA’s Community Security Initiative. The form can be found on JPSA’s website. Jewish Community Security Directors Paul Patterson and Chelsea Gutierrez will review submitted forms and share information with the appropriate local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Ben Goldberg, Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Phoenix office, emphasized that people do not need to determine whether or not an incident is a hate crime to report it. Either way, the information is important.

If prosecutors can show that an individual has a history of hate incidents, they can build a stronger case if that individual is later charged with a hate crime, he explained.

The Department of Justice defines a hate incident as any hostile expression that may be motivated by another person’s race, color, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender.

Hate crimes involve bias coupled with threats, intimidation, injury, or discrimination in housing, education, voting, and employment, among other things. Almost 75% of the FBI’s hate crime cases are motivated by race or religion.

A special agent from the FBI’s Tucson office noted that no one can be punished for having prejudicial beliefs, as long as those beliefs are expressed peacefully.

“We don’t have a law enforcement solution to every incident which causes fear and trauma,” said Gary M. Restaino, U.S. Attorney, District of Arizona, highlighting the need to work collectively on other solutions such as education, civic engagement, and civil dialogue.

But prosecution and civil litigation are key tools in protecting the vulnerable, Restaino said. He outlined several hate crime cases his office has worked on, including a man charged with burning two churches in Douglas and another charged with transporting firearms with intent to commit a hate crime directed at African Americans, Jews, and Muslims.

Both Goldberg and Restaino stressed that the June 18 program was not meant to be a one-time event, but the beginning of ongoing community dialogue.

TPD Chief Chad Kasmar said the United Against Hate event was partly prompted by Restaino telling him TPD has been underreporting hate crimes, with less than 50 reported out of TPD’s almost 200,000 calls for service last year. Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos said his department also lagged in reporting hate crimes.

Reporting also helps track trends.

Even before Oct. 7, antisemitic incidents in the United States were at the highest recorded levels in 2023, said Jolie Brislin, Anti-Defamation League Regional Director for Nevada and Arizona. The ADL began tracking antisemitism in 1979. Since Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel and sparked a war now in its eighth month, the numbers have skyrocketed. In Tucson, antisemitic incidents increased 118%. On college campuses across the country, there’s been a 900% increase in antisemitic activity.

These incidents have included bomb threats and even 10/7 denial, similar to Holocaust denial, Brislin said. Since Oct. 7, she added, the incidents also have been much more public, from the anti-Israel rallies on college campuses to the protest outside an exhibit in New York commemorating the Nova music festival massacre in Israel.

Jewish community panelists at the United Against Hate event held June 18, 2024, at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, from left: Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of the Tucson Jewish Community Center; Johanna Shlomovitch, head of school at Tucson Hebrew Academy; Jennifer Camaro, interim director of University of Arizona Hillel; Lori Shepherd, executive director of Tucson Jewish Museum & Holocaust Center; and Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin of Chabad Tucson. Moderator Lori Price, section chief/assistant U.S. attorney, is seated behind the panel.

Brislin was part of a panel focused on problems local Jewish community leaders have been seeing and how to encourage reporting to law enforcement. A second panel discussion focused on how law enforcement and the community can work together to address hate before hate crimes or incidents occur. Lori Price, a section chief and assistant U.S. attorney, moderated the discussions, which included answers to questions gathered from the audience.

Johanna Shlomovich, head of school at Tucson Hebrew Academy, a day school for kindergarten through eighth grade, said THA has heard from alumni and their parents about antisemitism in local high schools. THA has responded with in-depth Israel education for its eighth graders in preparation for high school. THA has also encouraged alumni who were reluctant to report incidents to do so. Shlomovich added that she has formed relationships with administrators at some local high schools to help them with their Jewish student populations.

Jennifer Camano, interim executive director at the University of Arizona Hillel since July, noted that after the fatal shooting last year of Prof. Thomas Meixner, who the shooter believed to be Jewish, the university provided antisemitism training for UA leaders and the UA police department.

Antisemitic incidents at the UA since Oct. 7, Camano said, have ranged from graffiti on a dorm room door to students spit on at a protest to anti-Israel encampments. This year, the university created a Joint Advisory Council on Jewish Life and Antisemitism. One serious infraction, Camano said, involved “rogue professors” from the College of Education who began teaching about Palestine with a clear anti-Israel bias. They were briefly suspended. The affected students, she said, “didn’t have any sense of justice” and some changed their majors.

Camano noted that students had complex and nuanced reactions to antisemitic incidents at the UA. Some were afraid to be on campus or stopped coming to Hillel. Others were eager to educate; they would go to rallies and sing, wear Israeli flags, and wrap tefillin in peaceful protest. Some were simply uncomfortable, and Hillel tried to communicate that being uncomfortable can be OK, but being unsafe is not.

A question about bias among law enforcement personnel prompted Lori Shepherd, executive director of the Tucson Jewish Museum and Holocaust Center, to discuss TPD’s participation in the What You Do Matters program.

Police cadets learn about the Holocaust as part of their diversity training, she said, and their last day of training before graduating from the police academy culminates in a tour of the museum.

“Those officers are very engaged. They deeply want to connect with the community they serve,” she said.

Countering the focus on hate, Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin of Chabad Tucson said that despite his Jewish appearance, he has never been harassed in Tucson, and his family receives much positive attention when they are out and about.

“There’s a lot of love,” he said.

Todd Rockoff, president and CEO of the Tucson J, advised the audience to be proud of their Jewish identities and find new ways to be involved in communal life, “because the very vocal minority is dictating the way we feel about the world.”

Just as we have a responsibility to report hate incidents, he said, “we also have a responsibility to show up and to look forward with great hope, as we always have, to a resilient and better tomorrow than the today we’re living in now.”