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How Will Utah Officials Respond To Xenophobic Attacks In the Wake Of COVID-19?

LA Johnson/NPR

Hate crimes against Asian and Asian-American individuals are increasing in frequency and intensity in the United States as the spread of the coronavirus increases.

Legally, a hate crime is defined as a crime motivated by bias against race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Sergeant Keith Horrocks is the public information officer for the Salt Lake City police department.  He said he is not aware of any such crimes in Salt Lake City reported recently.


“Certainly, you know, if we have those types of crimes in Salt Lake City we take that very serious.  Once we take a report for our hate crime, they actually get referred to the FBI to continue the investigation.”


Despite the lack of reports in Salt Lake City, in Cache County at least one hate crime has been reported in which an Asian American person was subjected to hateful chants and was struck by an object thrown from a moving vehicle. 

“There are different levels of assault.  If you say you’re going to assault somebody, that in itself is the lowest tier of assault. Then you may physically injure somebody.  Then we can look at, like, say an aggravated assault. So what that means is somebody used a weapon or a tool or something like that to inflict serious bodily injury on somebody, right?  So whenever somebody’s charged with a hate crime that has that type of thing associated with it, they’re actually being charged for the assault itself but then there’s also that xtra charge of the hate crime that kind of comes on top of it.”

Utah law states that any crime that is determined to be a motivated by hate of a protected group will be punished more severely than the same crime committed without the hate crime motivation.

A representative in the FBI office in Salt Lake City declined to be interviewed but issued a statement saying “while the FBI does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations, they want to assure the public the FBI remains committed to ensuring national security and pursuing violations of federal law.”