Urban Rural Action and Pennsylvania Prison Society implemented a Vera Institute of Justice-funded criminal justice reform program in Adams County, PA and Philadelphia in 2019. (Urban Rural Action)
28 ‘Uniters’ from southcentral Pa. recruited to tackle hate crimes
With hate crimes on the rise in Pennsylvania, a new coalition representing a cross-section of ideologies and cultures will use their differences to look for new ways to buck the trend.
Uniting to Prevent Targeted Violence (UPTV) has recruited 28 people from Adams, Dauphin, Franklin, and York counties – all of which have a higher-than-average risk of hate crimes compared to the rest of the country, according to a study from Princeton University.
UPTV’s co-director, Kira Hamman, said ‘Uniters’ plan to identify root causes of hate crime and work with emergency mental health resources in their communities to strengthen their services.
“I don’t necessarily mean someone you know threatening to blow up a school or something,” she said. “But if someone notices a behavior or a concern in the community, we have a network who is prepared to intervene and get that individual the help and support that they need to steer them away from the path that we know often leads to these horrendous acts of targeted violence.”
UPTV will be partnering with four community organizations including Mediation Services of Adams County, Just for Today Recovery & Veteran’s Support Services in Dauphin County, CONTACT Helpline in Franklin County, and Suicide Prevention of York.
Each project will receive $10,000 from UPTV’s grant of $769,190 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships.
UPTV is led by Urban Rural Action, an organization that organizes community conversations and action at a time when many find it difficult to talk politics.
Joe Bubman, founder of UR Action, said the group will try to mitigate hate crimes through a socioeconomic approach.
“If there are fewer employment opportunities, if people feel isolated and lonely, if people have misinformation about other groups of people, if there are not strong services that can help people who are experiencing mental health issues,” he said. “All of those factors present certain risks.”
The Uniters come from a range of political backgrounds, with 8 identifying as centrists, 11 as left-leaning, and 9 as right-leaning. Nearly half identify as Black, Latino, Asian-American, or multi-racial and half have four-year college degrees, with a third being younger than 45.
Hamman emphasized the importance of local involvement.
“You have to have people on the ground who live here who are prepared to help and to intervene and to change the way things are going,” she said. “And this group of people is that group.”
The program begins in Gettysburg on Feb. 18 and will run through August 2024.