District Attorney launches hotline to report hate crimes

Philadelphia citizens will be able to report hate crimes via a new hotline. District Attorney Kelley B. Hodge announced the launch of hotline at a press conference Thursday. A victim and witness services coordinator will staff the line, which is 215-686-8931.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not have an LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes statute, though the city did adopt such a measure three years ago.

The DA’s Office calls a hate crime a criminal act such as assault, murder, threats and vandalism that is motivated by prejudice or bias and  directed at people because of their real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender or disability.

With this new initiative also comes an improved partnership with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission. PCHR Executive Director Rue Landau said the commission has tracked hate crimes and bias incidents in the city since November 2016. The agency has reported 104 separate incidents, with LGBT-related crimes being the second-largest behind racially motivated crimes.

Landau noted the need to expand the state’s hate-crimes law. 

“We need to amend our state Ethnic Intimidation Ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender identity, disability and sex, the categories that are currently missing that must be included in order for us to have the strongest law that we need to combat these crimes,” Landau said.

Hodges echoed Landau’s statement and also encouraged LGBT people to call in, even though the community is not listed under the state Ethnic Intimidation law.

“This is information that we need to know because, with information, we hopefully can bring forth change,” she said.

Robert Reed, executive deputy attorney general for Public Engagement, told PGN that ethnic intimidation is “oftentimes linked to another crime.”

“Even if LGBT issues are not included within the statute, it doesn’t mean the prosecution can’t take place,” Reed said. “If there is a threat to cause harm or bodily injury, you can always charge it as an aggravated assault, a threat, criminal mischief, whatever it is, and then at a sentencing, you can bring up the fact that this person was specifically targeted based on their sexual orientation. And I believe that is something that would make a compelling argument to any judge.”

ADAs from each geographic bureau, the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit and the Municipal Court Unit will prosecute hate and bias crimes in their bureau or unit. They include:

  •   Coordinator — Salena Jones
  •   Central Bureau —  Sam Haaz
  •   East Bureau —  Yasmine Rosario
  •   Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit —  Helen Park
  •   Juvenile Court Unit — Meghan Goddard
  •   Municipal Court Unit —  Adam Geer
  •   Northeast Bureau —  Leonard Champaign
  •   Northwest Bureau —  Ashley Toczylowski
  •   South Bureau —  Lauren Realberg
  •   Southwest Bureau —  Antima Chakraborty

The Hate Crimes Task Force will meet on a quarterly basis, or in a more frequent capacity when needed, to discuss concerns, advancements and specific cases. Additionally, the task force will communicate with PCHR regularly about its work.