6 months in, Providence’s hate crime hotline has received few calls

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A special hotline designed to support Providence residents who believe they have been victims of a hate crime has received just three calls in the six months since it was established by the Elorza administration, according to a spokesperson for the mayor.

The hotline – 1-877-3HCRIME – was created last December as part of Mayor Jorge Elorza’s “One Providence” initiative, a set of policies, actions or events the mayor announced in the weeks leading up to President Trump’s inauguration.

At the time, Elorza cited reports that “hate crimes are on the rise,” asserting “this hotline will ensure that residents have the outlet and resources to report a crime and feel safe.” But it has received little attention in the months since and is not featured prominently on a new city website officials rolled out earlier this month.

“The hotline was launched in response to the great interest shown by residents and community organizations who emphasized that such a resource should exist,” Victor Morente, a spokesperson for Elorza, said in statement. “As part of the mayor’s One Providence initiative, it aligns with his work to reassure every resident that they are welcomed, valued, and can reach out to the city for support in the case they are a victim of such a crime.”

The hotline does appear to remain active, although no one answered when Eyewitness News placed calls at 11:45 a.m. and 12 p.m. Wednesday. An operator did answer the phone when another call was made at 12:15 p.m. A press release announcing the hotline said it would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It’s difficult to track hate crimes because not every law enforcement agency in the country reports incidents to the FBI, but the number of reported hate crime incidents nationwide dropped from 6,628 in 2010 to 5,850 in 2015, according to the most recent available data. (Statistics for 2016 will likely be released in November.)

Providence reported 11 hate crimes in 2015, 18 in 2014 and one in 2013, according to annual statistics published by the Rhode Island State Police.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan