Police: Reports of hate and bias incidents in Maryland surged in 2016

Reports of hate and bias incidents in Maryland surged 40 percent last year, the Maryland State Police reported Friday.

Law enforcement agencies received 285 such reports in 2016, up from 203 in 2015.

There were more than 50 reports in November, the month of the presidential election. That was far more than in any other month.

At least 11 alleged incidents included a reference to Donald J. Trump, police reports show.

In October, for example, an 11-year-old white boy in Anne Arundel County allegedly called two 13-year-old black boys racial slurs and said, “You’re all going to have to leave once Trump wins.”

In November, a 33-year-old white man allegedly pointed a gun at a 37-year-old Hispanic man in Montgomery County and said he was going to kill the victim and his family, police said. The man said he voted for Donald Trump and the victim needed to leave the country, police said. The man was arrested.

Baltimore County and Montgomery County led the state with 73 reports each. That was a jump of nearly 50 percent in Baltimore County and 83 percent in Montgomery County.

“We take all our bias incidents seriously,” Baltimore County Police Officer Shawn Vinson said. “We record and report incidents to state police as required by law.”

Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks said it’s difficult to determine whether the increase in reports reflects an actual increase in incidents or simply more awareness about hate crimes.

“If someone believes they may have been a victim,” he said, “we want them to call us so we can investigate and provide other resources.”

Reports in Anne Arundel County more than doubled, from 22 to 47. Baltimore had only seven incidents, up from four in 2015.

State law defines hate or bias incidents as those directed against an individual or group because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity, or homelessness.

As in the past several years, the leading targets were African-Americans. Reports of incidents against African Americans accounted for 43 percent of the total.

Nearly 80 reports involved racial slurs. Forty involved swastikas, the Nazi symbol used against Jews.

About half of the reports involved some kind of alleged assault or vandalism. The other half involved verbal or written intimidation.

Each county’s figures includes reports to multiple law enforcement agencies. Baltimore County’s total, for example, includes reports to the Baltimore County Police and the campus police departments at Towson University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, among others.

Of the 285 reports, the state police said, 93 were verified through police investigations, 179 were inconclusive, meaning an investigation could not determine either the motivation behind the incident or whether it occurred, and 13 were unfounded, meaning an investigation found either that it did not occur or that it was not motivated by hate or bias.

The numbers do not include the hate charge brought this week against the white University of Maryland student accused of stabbing a black Bowie State University student to death in College Park in June.

Sean Urbanski was already charged with murder in the death of Army 2nd Lt. Richard W. Collins III. Collins was days from graduating from Bowie State when he was attacked.

Police initially said race did not appear to play a role in the killing. But then investigators said they discovered Urbanski belonged to a Facebook group called Alt Reich: Nation, on which members shared white supremacist memes. A Prince George’s County grand jury added the hate crime charge this week.

The Baltimore Sun is partnering with newsrooms around the country in a ProPublica-led project to collect recent and reliable data on hate crimes in the U.S. If you have been the victim of a hate crime, please use this form to contribute to this database.

crentz@baltsun.com

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