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November 18, 2017

Philly gets a hotline for hate crimes

For people who either witness or are a victim of a hate crime in Philadelphia, there's now a number for that.

The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office announced on Thursday that it had launched a hate crimes hotline, 215-686-8931. Victim and Witness Services coordinators will staff the line, officials said.

The DA's office also expanded the number of assistant district attorneys handling all hate crime cases from six to 10. Its Hate Crimes Task Force, created last year by since-disgraced District Attorney Seth Williams, will meet quarterly and regularly communicate with the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission on its work, officials said.

“We cannot combat acts of hate if we remain silent. The launch of the new hate crime hotline by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office will make it much easier for anyone to speak up and report hate incidents so they can be thoroughly investigated," Rue Landau, executive director of the commission, said in a statement.

WHYY News reported on Thursday that the commission had received roughly 100 reports of hate and bias incidents since last November.

The announcement was a last-minute effort from District Attorney Kelley Hodge to expand the task force. It'll be up to District Attorney-elect Larry Krasner to decide if he'll follow through on the move after he replaces Hodge in January.

A spokesman for Krasner told WHYY that the matter is under review.

The DA's office launched the task force in response to a series of high-profile hate crimes in Philadelphia that took place after President Donald Trump's election last year. Such incidents included black students at the University of Pennsylvania being added to a racist GroupMe called "N***** Lynching" and swastikas painted on a South Philadelphia storefront.

Hate crimes in Pennsylvania are punishable under the state's ethnic intimidation statute. Members of the LGBTQ community are not covered under the law.