FBI encouraging more hate crime victims to come forward

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — There’s new help for victims of hate crimes. A public awareness push from FBI Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is encouraging people to feel more comfortable about speaking up.

In all of Florida, the FBI confirmed there were 109 hate crimes in 2020 but believes many aren’t being reported because of a fear of what might happen.

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“I don’t have a crystal ball for the future, but I pray it helps,” Chloie Kensington said.

In 2018, a 38-year-old transgender woman named Antash’a English was shot and killed in Jacksonville.

Her friend, Kensington, has since started the Stiletto Sister Society to take action for these types of hate crimes and raise awareness.

“It’s intended to intimidate a whole community of people. And so it takes one person to be brave, be courageous and to say, ‘No, I’m not going to take this laying down. I’m going to raise my voice,’” she said.

State Attorney Melissa Nelson and Special Agent Rachel Rojas both said it can be hard to punish people for hate crimes because motive and intent must be proven.

Action News Jax asked what exactly classifies as a hate crime because there can be some confusion. Many think derogatory slurs and hate speech would fall under that, but Rojas said it doesn’t.

“A hate crime — you have either some intent or willfulness or motivation for a violent crime,” she said.

FBI research shows the number of reported hate crimes has increased by more than 20% over the past five years.

According to the FBI crime data explorer, JSO worked at least 11 hate crimes in 2020.

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Kensington said she stands with this new campaign to help bring justice for victims.

“It continues our mission for accountability,” she said. “Every person deserves to know their life matters.”