Law Enforcement, Community Leaders Encourage More Reporting of Hate Incidents

Law Enforcement, Community Leaders Encourage More Reporting of Hate Incidents

These crimes were on the rise in Montgomery County last year

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Chief Tom Manger speaks at the Bender Jewish Community Center.

Joe Zimmermann

The Montgomery County police chief and a panel of law enforcement and legal experts encouraged residents to report hate crimes and show that hate incidents won’t be tolerated during a community event Monday night.

Chief Tom Manger, one of eight panelists who spoke to about 40 people gathered at the Bender Jewish Community Center in Rockville, said law enforcement officers and community organizations seek to aid victims of hate crimes, but the first step in doing so is making sure the community knows how to immediately respond when a hate crime occurs.

“There’s a lot of resources throughout the country at all levels of government to deal with hate crimes, but it all begins with encouraging people to report hate crimes in the first place,” Manger said.

In 2016, 87 hate crimes were reported in the County, a 32 percent increase from the 66 reported in 2015, Manger said. Most of that increase is attributable to a spike in November and December after the presidential election, he said.

Police have made arrests in 30 percent of the cases, which Manger said is typical for these types of crimes. He said arrests are attributable to detectives working with people in the community to find the perpetrators.

The Bender Jewish Community Center received a bomb threat in January, and hate crimes have become a growing concern for the Montgomery County community. Organizations like Communities United Against Hate have launched to combat the rising number of hate crimes and hate incidents. 

Ben Lieu, the Mid-Atlantic regional director for the community relations service of the Department of Justice, said responses to hate crimes act as a “litmus test of what your community will tolerate.”

“More times than not, the perpetrators who do these hate crimes wait to see what the response is,” Lieu said. “If they see you walk home, you’re tolerating it, you’re basically saying that your community is afraid to report these things.”

Manger said Bethesda had the most hate crimes reported in the county last year, while Gaithersburg had the least. About 40 percent of hate crimes in the county are incidents of vandalism or graffiti, while 20 percent are physical assaults, 20 percent are verbal intimidation and 20 percent are written intimidation.

Lieu also stressed people should report both hate crimes and bias incidents, which are less severe, but still give law enforcement useful information that can be used to prevent future incidents or crimes.

“When you have a hate crime, you don’t have just that one incident,” Lieu said. “You have at least hundreds of hate incidents, of graffiti, of racial slurs, cars stopping [and people] saying go back to where you came from.”

The panelists noted that the importance of watching out for hate incidents also applies to speech online, which has become an increasing problem as hate speech proliferates on social media. Doron Ezickson, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said such speech is not protected.

“These sites have rules of engagement that you agree to,” he said. “If you see hate, identify it to the social media provider.”

Manger said people should take action when they think a hate bias incident is occurring. That includes informing law enforcement about what happened, or even recording a video of the scene.

“When you see something going on—whether somebody’s being harassed or someone’s on the corner shouting something—everybody’s got a phone—record it,” he said. “That’s very helpful. Then if we decide later it is a crime, that’s helpful evidence.”

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