In response to an increase in hate crimes, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, alongside law enforcement leaders, announced the formation of the Hate Crimes Awareness and Response Team (HART) during a press conference in November.
The initiative comes as a proactive measure to identify and prevent hate crimes following a reported uptick in criminal acts motivated by bigotry and bias in Massachusetts.
At the press conference, interim Massachusetts State Police Colonel John Mawn Jr. highlighted the urgency of addressing such crimes, citing a recent report by the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security that showed reported hate crime incidents rising from 406 to 440 in the state from 2021 to 2022.
“Recent events at home and abroad provide a tragic and urgent reminder that no community is immune from the unpredictable and devastating impact of bias-motivated events,” Mawn said.
Mawn went on to call for stronger efforts to combat bias and intolerance through law enforcement initiatives such as HART. “As our nation continues to grapple with a concerning increase in unlawful acts of hate, the State Police will meet this moment with a robust strategy and sustained commitment to confronting bias and intolerance by strengthening law enforcement partnerships, enhancing community engagement, and delivering advanced training and education to stakeholders,” he added.
According to Mawn, HART will consist of four to five sworn State Police members, each assigned to monitor specific regions of the state. These troopers will serve as a focal point for local law enforcement, community groups and religious organizations responding to or experiencing hate crimes. Mawn described the team as a diverse and multilingual group with exceptional investigative experience.
HART’s objectives include improving data collection and sharing to identify patterns and trends, conducting educational outreach, developing advanced hate crimes response training and streamlining coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Healey also stressed the importance of taking a firm stand against hate.
“Whatever the bias, whatever the target, hate has no place in Massachusetts,” she said, announcing Hate Crime Prevention Grant awards for Massachusetts school districts amounting to $461,920.
The grants aim to support professional development for teachers and engagement with law enforcement and community organizations.
According to the recent report, hate crimes in the state are at their highest level since 2002. The most common motivators were race, ethnicity, national origin, religion and sexual orientation.
Education Commissioner Jeff Riley endorsed Healey’s approach, which align with recommendations from a 2019 task force emphasizing an education-based strategy to prevent hate crimes.
Riley said the grants will empower schools in 10 districts to enhance professional development, identify and intervene in hate incidents, and collaborate with community partners.
The announcement follows recent hate incidents on the South Coast, including the distribution of recruitment flyers by a neo-Nazi group in New Bedford.
In response, the New Bedford Human Rights Commission organized an anti-hate event on November 2, featuring speakers from the Anti-Defamation League, the FBI’s Boston office, the district attorney’s office and New Bedford’s NAACP chapter.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Healey declared that preventing hate crimes aligns with the founding principles of the Commonwealth, writing, “Acts of hate are attacks on democracy, and we won’t stand for that in our state.”