TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A local nonprofit is fighting back against hate crimes in Tucson, and is calling on both the Tucson Police Department and the community to step up.
Since the presidential election, staff at the YWCA of Southern Arizona say they've seen a dramatic rise in hate crimes.
"While we are seeing incidents of harassment and hate across the country, Tucsonans need to stand together," said Kelly Fryer, CEO of the YWCA of Southern Arizona. "That's not okay in this community. This is a place where everyone is welcome and everyone should feel safe."
The organization recently launched a website where people can report hate crimes.
So far, organizers say they've received dozens of reports from people who are disabled, Jewish, Muslim, gay, lesbian and transgender.
One man reported seeing a group of African American teen girls walking on Oracle Road by the Tucson Mall, when a car with two white men made a fast left turn, then sped up and drove right at them as they crossed the street.
As they swerved around the girls, barely missing them, he said they yelled racial slurs, including the "N-word."
A woman reported that she was verbally harassed and bullied by a man who told her he lives in her neighborhood while she was at the dog park.
She said she is afraid he might hurt her, and she is scared to go back to the park.
Another woman sent the YWCA a screenshot of her phone.
It showed a Facebook exchange with a man who disagreed with something she said, and told her: "You can't believe everything you read, you wetback."
One woman was only recently able to get a protective order from her neighbor who has been tormenting her for years.
That's because another neighbor finally witnessed what was going on.
"It took 17 years of antisemitic comments, property damage and 11 killed animals to catch one of my neighbors and to get an harassment order because no one believed me," she said, adding that Tucson police just told her to move out of her house.
The YWCA is pushing TPD to do a better job tracking and documenting these hate crimes, and is calling on the public to do their part.
The organization is holding a meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. called "We Stand Together."
More than 200 people have RSVP'd, including business owners, local leaders and church members.
The YWCA says 48 individuals and 11 businesses have already signed up to be part of the "We Stand Together" network, which means they have agreed to be a safe place for anyone experiencing bias-related harassment or a hate crime.
They will receive a decal to put in their window and an instructional guide so they know how to respond when someone seeks them out for shelter and safety.
Tucson News Now reached out to the Tucson Police Department about YWCA's claims.
They are aware of the claims, but have not yet responded.
If you'd like to report an incident of harassment or verbal assault, you can do so HERE: http://bit.ly/2fQpHlM
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