Hate crimes hotline launched for Marion County residents

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A non-emergency hate crimes hotline has been launched to serve Hoosiers living in Marion County. The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office announced the new resource on Monday.

Known as the Marion County Hate Crimes Hotline — which can be reached at 317-327-5314 — the service provides a reporting mechanism for individuals who believe they have experienced or witnessed a potential bias-motivated crime. A trained social worker and victim advocate will monitor calls from the hotline, both of whom are employed by the prosecutor’s office.

When a report is recorded, hate crime victims can choose to file a formal report with the local law enforcement agency or be referred to an identity-based community service provider for trauma counseling and other assistance.

Additionally, the hotline will offer interpretation for Spanish-speaking residents as well as other languages for a broader reach of services.

However, the hotline is not for emergencies, the prosecutor’s office said. Emergencies and immediate threats should still be reported to 911.

“We want to send a clear message that hate has no place in Indianapolis and Marion County. For those who have experienced a bias-motivated incident, we stand with you,” Prosecutor Ryan Mears said in a statement. “By providing this hotline and support through a victim advocate, we believe our office can reduce the barriers of reporting and improve law enforcement’s response and support for victims of these crimes.”

Hate crimes are defined as crimes committed against someone due to their social identifier, including their racial, religious, ethnic, sexual or gender identity.

Under Indiana law, aggravated sentences can be sought on a conviction if the crime was hate- or bias-motivated. Indiana enacted a hate crimes law in 2019 after a yearslong legislative battle.

A November report from the FBI found that hate crimes in the U.S. had risen to the highest level in more than a decade. Also, federal officials had recorded the highest number of hate-motivated killings since the FBI began collecting that data in the early 1990s, The Associated Press reported in November. 

Mears said a major part of the effort to eradicate hate crimes is education.

“We are available to the community to share information about what constitutes a hate crime, why reporting is so important, and how to support victims of these incidents,” the prosecutor said.

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