LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — “Protecting our communities together.” Drivers on Interstate 15 may have spotted the phrase on new billboards from the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office. The messages are part of a nationwide effort from the bureau to encouraging the reporting of hate crimes.
While Nevada law aligns with federal regulations when it comes to protections based on sex, gender, race or ethnicity, the FBI is the lead agency when it comes to the violation of a federal statute.
Hieu Le, 24, is a Vietnamese American student who was raised in Las Vegas.
“I had someone scream on a megaphone saying, ‘Here comes the Republic of China,’” Le said about a recent incident near the Nevada Legislature in Carson City. Capitol Police found the person responsible and removed him from the area, Le said.
In another incident, Le said he was at a Clark County School District Board meeting when a man yelled a similar remark.
“No one wants to report it,” Le said. “They don’t want to start a problem. No one wants to be a problem with the situation.”
New data from the FBI shows 70% of hate crimes in Nevada involved a person’s race, ethnicity or ancestry. The percentage is slightly higher than the national number of about 62%.
More than half of all reported hate crimes involve intimidation, not an actual violent action, national data showed. The FBI considers a hate crime like a math equation: a crime plus a motivating bias, like one’s race, equals a hate-related incident.
Le, who works with students in the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community said his culture says just keep going.
“We always have a tendency, ‘keep your head down,’ ‘don’t say anything,’ and just move on,” Le said.
But moving on means many suspected hate crime incidents in Nevada and across the United States are going unreported. For a state with a population of more than 3 million, Nevada police agencies reported 113 hate crimes in total for 2020.
“They can’t escape justice,” the Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse, head of the FBI’s Las Vegas office, said. “The FBI will always be there.”
Rouse said he hoped more people would come forward knowing the FBI has the resources to work with local and state agencies to hold offenders accountable.
“No one should ever accept that hate crimes are a part of life,” Rouse said. “It’s never a sign of weakness to say we have a problem. It’s a sign of weakness to ignore it.”
Le said he was hopeful more could be done in a world where, unfortunately, hate does exist.
“Our problems are something to be heard about,” Le said. “And our problems are something to be reported about, too.”
A change in Nevada state law that went into effect last Friday said the perpetrator of a hate crime and the victim can now be the same race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.
Hate crimes can be reported to Metro police, through the FBI at 800-CALL-FBI or on the FBI’s website.