RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A group of Democratic state legislators said Thursday they’ll once again file a bill aimed at reducing hate crimes, citing a rise in anti-Asian discrimination and attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move also came the same week law enforcement is investigating the motive behind a series of shootings in Georgia that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian-American women.
According to the Associated Press, the suspect in that case told police he had a potential “sex addiction.”
“The fact remains that many members of our community are scared and anxious and fearful,” said Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake), who is Asian-American and one of the lead sponsors of the bill.
His bill would address four issues: increased protections for victims of hate crimes, increased penalties for those who perpetrate them, mandatory reporting of hate crimes by law enforcement to improve data collection and training for police and prosecutors.
“I’m under no illusion that the passage of this bill will do away with hate crimes and hate groups. But, this legislation does build trust with our communities that are targeted,” he said.
This is the third time Chaudhuri has introduced this legislation since he was first elected to the Senate.
He noted there’s never been a hearing or vote on the bill.
When asked about the bill, Pat Ryan, a spokesman for Republican Senate leader Phil Berger, wrote in an email, “We haven’t seen the legislation at this time, so we won’t be able to comment on it.”
Ed Binanay, president of North Carolina-based Asian Pacific Islander Outreach, said his community is “on edge” amid a rise in violence against Asian-Americans.
The group Stop AAPI Hate, which launched a reporting center in March 2020, said this week it had received 3,795 reports of hate incidents between the center’s inception and the end of February.
The organization believes that number to be a fraction of the total incidents that have occurred, noting the likelihood that many incidents go unreported.
“This spike in unprecedented hate crimes are attributed to the xenophobic, incendiary rhetoric against Asian Americans and in fact blaming us for the COVID-19 virus pandemic,” said Binanay. “Attacks on Asian-Americans have to stop now.”
Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed (D-Mecklenburg) said one of the key provisions of the bill is data collection.
“Data drives policy and guides problem-solving. So, if we don’t report the data, those in power and the public will believe that hate crimes are not an issue,” he said.