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Reports of hate crimes rose slightly in Mass. during 2020

There were 385 hate crimes reported to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security in 2020, up slightly from 2019 as legislation to update the state’s hate crimes statute and strengthen its penalties remains bottled up in the Judiciary Committee.

The 385 reports (up from 376 in 2019) came from 85 municipal police departments, nine campus police agencies and the Massachusetts General Hospital Police Department. Another 271 law enforcement agencies submitted reports indicating that they experienced no bias-motivated incidents. Thirty-eight agencies did not report hate crimes, down from 45 in 2019.

The most common offense reported in 2020 was vandalism/damage/destruction of property (32.9 percent) followed by intimidation (30.6 percent), the state report said. Simple assault accounts for 19 percent of incidents and 11.4 percent of hate crimes were categorized as aggravated assault. Prejudice against race, ethnicity, or national origin was the most widely-reported bias motivation (66.4 percent of incidents), followed by bias against religious groups (15.7 percent). Sexual orientation bias was third at 14.3 percent.

In conjunction with Friday’s release of the 2020 hate crimes report, Governor Charlie Baker announced that his administration had endorsed an updated definition of antisemitism that was first adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance as the administration’s way of “re-affirming its commitment to combatting antisemitism and all forms of hate, wherever it is found.”

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The report lands as Curry College in Milton has moved classes online as officials investigate a string of incidents including what the college president called “threatening language targeting the Black community” and “racist hate language and a drawn swastika,” the Globe reported this week.

Earlier this month, the Joint Committee on the Judiciary secured an extension until April 15 to decide how to proceed with legislation backed by Attorney General Maura Healey, Representative Tram Nguyen and Senator Adam Hinds to increase the penalties imposed for some hate crime charges, impose new data collection requirements to monitor the impact of hate crimes in Massachusetts, and expand the list of protected classes to include immigration status, gender, gender expression and sex.

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