Since election day, there have been reports across the U.S. of hate crimes and ugly verbal confrontations. The election was one of the most divisive in modern history, punctuated with issues over illegal immigration, Muslims, and treatment of women. Despite many high-profile incidents, officials don’t know whether there are more hate crimes since the election or whether they are simply getting more attention, the Los Angeles Times reports. Law enforcement agencies are trying to get ahead of the problem. Some are launching task forces to investigate hate allegations quickly. San Francisco is sending undercover officers into neighborhoods to see if they become the victims of hate crimes. Other agencies are stepping up outreach efforts to encourage people to report hate crimes and incidents of bigotry that are likely protected by the First Amendment, but that officials still vow to investigate.
“In times of turmoil, in times of uncertainty, in times of strife, hate crimes increase. The fear of other is very, very strong in humanity,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “This cannot stand. This cannot be something we allow as a people.” Law enforcement agencies have launched a public awareness campaign to deter perpetrators of hate crimes and to remind victims that they should feel safe in reporting incidents to police. Authorities in Los Angeles and San Francisco are monitoring social media comments that might rise to the level of a criminal threat or serve as a precursor of a hate crime. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon hopes the efforts will not only deter criminal activity but also make those who fear being targeted feel safer. Hate crimes are considered underreported, in part because victims speak poor English or fear that interaction with law enforcement might prompt questions about their immigration status. Even before the election cycle, reported hate crimes the U.S. rose 7 percent in 2015, the FBI says.