CHAMBLEE, Ga. (CBS46) -- The FBI launched a campaign in Georgia this week encouraging the public to report hate crimes.
There are messages on billboards, MARTA buses, screens at gas pumps and even online marketing on many websites encouraging people to report if they've been a victim of a hate crime of if they've witnessed one.
It's a kind of crime that is underreported right now, according to Supervisory Special Agent Joe Jensen, who oversees the FBI Atlanta's public corruption and civil rights squad.
"We’d like to see an increase in reporting. It increases law enforcement action, it increases community outreach, it's just good for everybody," he said.
The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
"Hate crimes are a priority for the FBI because these crimes against minority communities, they affect the community as a whole, there’s not just an individual victim, there’s a community that’s a victim of these crimes," said Jensen.
The FBI released its 2020 hate crime statistics that showed there were more than 10,000 victims nationwide. There were 159 hate crimes reported in Georgia in 2020, with 401 of the state's 657 law enforcement agencies voluntarily submitting data to the FBI.
Jensen said the first step for the public is making the call and investigators will take it from there.
"We can make the determination whether it’s a federal violation of law or if we need to coordinate with our state and local partners to bring some justice to the victims of these crimes," he said.
"It's important that no victim goes unnoticed and crimes don’t go unpunished," said Jensen.
To report a crime you can call 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip here.
"I'm very pleased to see that the FBI is taking such proactive action," said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.
"We know that over the last few years there have been some really heinous crimes directed at members of the LGBT community, at people who are from racial, religious or ethnic minorities and we cannot actually get in to address the root causes of that crime if we don’t know where the bias is and we don’t know which communities are most affected," Graham said. "These are crimes that don’t just target an individual, these are crimes that target communities and it really does send ripples of fear amongst communities.”
In a statement to CBS46, Neil Rabinovitz, Community Security Director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, said, "Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta works in partnership with our law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, each and every day to help ensure that our community has the infrastructure it needs to keep everyone safe, and we are so grateful for their continuous support. Awareness is a big part of our success, so anything that promotes 'if you see something, say something ' only strengthen our efforts."