‘United Against Hate’ looks to tackle underreported hate crimes across Eastern Washington

SPOKANE, Wash — Hate crimes are a felony in Washington, and are also some of the most underreported crimes across the nation.

For the past four months there has been an effort in Eastern Washington to change that.

Local law enforcement and the United States Attorney’s Office have collaborated in the ‘United Against Hate’ pilot program. Due to its success, partly in Eastern Washington, the program is being rolled out nationally.

Last year, a man spray painted a swastika on a Jewish synagogue in Spokane. Charged with a hate crime, he was sentenced to seven months behind bars.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Man sentenced to 7 months for hate crime at Temple Beth Shalom

“In this moment where we have seen an uptick in threats and hate incidences, we want our community to know that that’s not acceptable,” said Vanessa Waldref, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “Our hope is in doing these outreach efforts, is that there will be clear guidance on how individuals can report if they have these incidences in their lives, and we can respond.”

They presented at several different places of worship including the Temple Beth Shalom in Spokane and the Gurudwara Shree Guru Nanak Darbar in the Spokane Valley.

Hershel Zellman is a board member of the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force. He attended the presentation at Temple Beth Shalom.

“The community showed up about, oh 30, 35 people,”  Zellman said. “They had great questions, they had many questions, especially about how to protect themselves and how law enforcement is going to protect them and the Jewish community from further vandalism and threats.”

Waldref says they hope to expand the United Against Hate program to the entire Eastern District.

To report a hate crime, you can call Crime Check at (509)-456-2233.

For more information about the Spokane County Human Rights Task Force, click HERE.

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