Attorney General Merrick Garland declared on Thursday that the Department of Justice is extending its hate crime reporting efforts and that it would not hold criminals accountable.

Garland stated during a panel discussion at the White House Hate Crimes Summit that the agency plans to expand its United Against Hate programme to all 94 U.S. Attorney’s offices nationwide within the next year. The outreach training programme seeks to assist individuals in identifying and preventing hate crimes, as well as to strengthen partnerships with law enforcement.

Garland stated in announcing the action that the DOJ does not investigate or prosecute anyone based on their ideology or “the opinions they hold.”

“However, in our democracy, people do not have the right to do violent acts or make unlawful violent threats inspired by bigotry or hatred,” Garland stated.

“The Justice Department will not hesitate to hold anyone accountable who do so,” he added.

Garland, who was appointed by President Joe Biden and has led the department since March 2021, mentioned earlier this year’s convictions of three men who killed Ahmaud Arbery, which he claimed happened “simply because he was a Black guy running on a public roadway.”

He also mentioned Jose Gomez of Texas, who pled guilty to charges of assaulting an Asian family, and Raymond Fehring of New York, who wrote more than 60 letters to LGBTQ-affiliated persons and groups, “many of which contain threats to kill, shoot, and bomb the receivers.”

“We also had a guy convicted in Tennessee for a series of arsons that targeted Catholic, Methodist, and Baptist churches in the state,” Garland added.

According to Department of Justice data, more than 40 persons were charged with bias-motivated crimes between January 2021 and May 2022, with more than 35 convictions.

“But we also realise that prosecutions alone are insufficient,” Garland said, explaining why the department is incorporating the United Against Hate programme into the offices of all federal prosecutors.

Pilot programmes have already been completed successfully in the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Districts of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., he stated.

The program’s engagement in New Jersey is described as “deepening linkages with local community members, advocacy groups, and other federal and state agencies to defend civil rights.”

One month before New Jersey was chosen as one of three districts for the pilot programme in August, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger announced the establishment of a civil rights section inside his office. According to the office’s website, the newly formed section was tasked with carrying out the United Against Hate project.

Garland stated on Thursday that the Department of Justice’s civil rights division and the FBI play critical roles in the programme.

The FBI has started a National Anti-Hate Crimes campaign using billboards, radio, and social media commercials throughout the previous year. According to the Department of Justice website, civil rights violations and hate crimes enforcement have been prioritised across all 56 of its field offices, and at least one assistant U.S. attorney has been assigned to serve as a civil rights coordinator in each of the 94 federal prosecutor offices.

Garland concluded his remarks on Thursday by saying that “confronting unlawful acts of hatred is tough and demanding work.”

“All individuals in this nation should be free from fear of being assaulted or harassed because of where they come from, what they look like, who they love, how they worship, or what they believe,” he added.

He said that the Justice Department “will never cease working toward that purpose.”

Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy advisor, hosted Thursday’s discussion, which also included Homeland Security Secretary Alexander Mayorkas, National Endowment for the Humanities Chair Shelly Lowe, and AmeriCorps CEO Michael Smith.