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The FBI’s Boston Division said Tuesday that it’s joining a nationwide effort to increase awareness of hate crimes and encourage people to report such acts to law enforcement.

The bureau confirmed its involvement in the push in a statement.

“We know that some people are afraid to come forward because of a fear or distrust of law enforcement, fear due to their immigration status, or a fear of retribution from their attacker. We understand that, but please know that hate crimes are a huge priority for the FBI, and we are surging resources to address this problem,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, in the statement.

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He said the bureau’s goal “is to protect victims, help them get justice, stop violent offenders from hurting people, and deter people from committing these terrible crimes. With the launch of this public awareness campaign, we want to make everyone aware of our strategy to tackle this problem, and to proactively try and stop these crimes from happening in the first place. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their community, and everyone deserves a voice.”

As part of the public awareness campaign, the statement said, the FBI’s encouraging “the reporting of all incidents of bias and hate by expanding” education and outreach.

The Boston division, the statement said, has launched a social media awareness campaign as well as ads on billboards, buses, gas stations, and radio streaming services to encourage the public to flag hate crimes to the feds. Members of the public can submit information to tips.fbi.gov in any language, the statement said.

The nationwide numbers on hate crimes, meanwhile, reflect unsettling trends.

According to the statement, last year the number of hate crimes in the US rose to the highest level in more than a decade, with law enforcement agencies reporting a total of 7,759 hate crimes to the FBI.

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“Here in the Boston Division’s area of responsibility, which includes all of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, a total of 426 hate crime incidents were reported last year, compared to 427 incidents in 2019,” the statement said.

The breakdown of hate crime stats includes:

  • 83 hate crime incidents reported in Maine involving 98 victims.
  • 310 hate crime incidents in Massachusetts reported involving 408 victims.
  • 19 hate crime incidents reported in New Hampshire involving 25 victims.
  • And in Rhode Island, 14 hate crime incidents reported involving 16 victims.

The crackdown extends beyond the public awareness campaign, according to the statement.

”FBI Boston is actively enhancing its existing investigative resources to investigate federal hate crimes,” the statement said. “The division has experienced, specialized FBI special agent hate crime coordinators who are training more special agents to conduct hate crime and civil rights investigations.”




Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.