WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department will release $5 million for states to establish hotlines to report hate crime, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Friday, as a mass shooting in Buffalo heightened concerns about racially motivated violence in the United States.
The money is one of several steps Garland outlined to improve reporting and prosecution of hate crimes, which reached their highest level in more than a decade in 2020, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Those figures are not comprehensive as state and local authorities are not required to report them to the FBI, which defines a hate crime as a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias.
The FBI has said it is investigating three recent shootings as possible hate crimes, in Buffalo, New York, Dallas and southern California.
Criminologists have said that shooters, mostly young white men, have been inspired by previous racist gun massacres. Authorities say the man charged with Saturday's shooting in Buffalo posted a racist screed online before killing 10 people, all of them Black.
Garland said the Justice Department also will issue new guidelines for raising awareness about hate crimes and will release another $5 million for community-based approaches. Those steps were specified by legislation that President Joe Biden signed into law a year ago.
"We will use every legal tool at our disposal to investigate and combat these kinds of hate crimes and their collateral impact that they have on the communities that they hurt."
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Chris Gallagher; editing by Grant McCool)