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Earlier this year, Stoney Ridge Missionary Baptist Church in Marriottsville was vandalized with graffiti of swastikas and offensive language. Police have classified it as a hate crime.
Earlier this year, Stoney Ridge Missionary Baptist Church in Marriottsville was vandalized with graffiti of swastikas and offensive language. Police have classified it as a hate crime. (Mary Grace Keller / Carroll County Times)

Across the country and in parts of Maryland, hate crimes have been on the rise for the past several years, but police statistics show that Carroll County has been near zero.

Earlier this year, Stoney Ridge Missionary Baptist Church in Marriottsville was vandalized with graffiti of swastikas and offensive language. Thus far, this is the only crime to be classified as a hate crime in Carroll County in 2019, according to Maryland State Police statistics. And Carroll County had only one hate crime in 2018 — an incident in Taneytown during which a racial slur was written on a Chinese restaurant.

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The highest number of hate crimes reported in the past 10 years in Carroll was in 2009, when there were 10 reported hate crimes in the county, according to the state police statistics. Aside from 2018, the only other time over the past decade that as few as one hate crime was reported in Carroll County was in 2014. After four were reported in 2015, two each were reported in 2016 and 2017.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines hate crimes as “crimes committed on the basis of the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.”

According to Sgt. DaVaughn Parker, a spokesman for Maryland State Police, hate crimes have to meet certain criteria that an investigator can prove. Deputy State’s Attorney Allan Culver explained further.

“The statutes that control the hate crimes are criminal procedure 10301 through 10308, and essentially what the statutes do is, obviously they make it a crime to commit certain types of offenses — damage to property, burn or attempt to burn an object, defacing property,” Culver said. “So there’s that one aspect of it, you got to see that a crime was committed. Then the second aspect of a hate crime is if it’s motivated based upon a person or groups, race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin, or even if an individual is homeless, the crime could qualify as a hate crime.

"Essentially, what you have to do is one, you’ve got to show a crime had occurred and then two, you’ve got to show that the intent or the motive behind the crime was related to a specific class of person.”

According to the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, hate crimes in Carroll are not commonly violent attacks.

“Last year, we had one, this year we’ve had one so far, which was the destruction of property, and that’s typically what we get out here,” said Maj. Charles Rapp of the sheriff’s office.

According to Rapp, the perpetrator or perpetrators of the church incident in Marriottsville have still not been caught.

As for the Chinese restaurant incident in 2018, Joseph Anthony Nagy of Taneytown was arrested in January and took a plea in May to one count of a damaging a building, a misdemeanor hate crime.

The statute for that crime reads: “A person may not deface, damage, or destroy, attempt to deface, damage, or destroy, burn or attempt to burn an object on, or damage the real or personal property connected to a building ... because a person or group of a particular race, color, religious belief, sexual orientation, gender, disability, or national origin, or because a person or group that is homeless, has contacts or is associated with the building.”

Nagy was sentenced to three years of incarceration with two years and 350 days suspended.

While Carroll County has seen a significant decrease in reported hate crimes over the past 10 years, surrounding counties have shown increases.

According to Maryland State Police statistics, Frederick County had nine hate crimes in 2016, 11 in 2017 and 17 in 2018. Howard County had 33 hate crimes in 2016, 43 in 2017, and 58 in 2018. Baltimore County rose from 49 hate crimes in 2015 to 73 in 2016, then to 103 in 2017, though the total dipped to 76 in 2018.

McDaniel College sociology professor Richard Smith shared some insights as to some potential reasons why other counties show higher numbers than Carroll.

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“I think the other counties, it seems like there could be either more incidents are happening or they are reporting it more,” he said. “They’re more aggressive in their reporting. This could be the case, but also another thing we have to think about, as far as Baltimore County — Baltimore County is a lot more diverse, I know they have different sections that aren’t as diverse, but it’s a lot more diverse than Carroll County. So, if you look at that then maybe, just by the simple fact that there’s more diversity, it might be more opportunities for hate crimes to occur as well.”

The general rise in hate crimes in surrounding counties mirrors the national trend.

According to hate crime statistics from the FBI, there has been a significant increase in hate crimes reported in the United States.

An increase of 371 hate crimes was reported from 2014 (when 5,479 were reported) to 2015 (5,850), and the number rose by 271 in 2016 (6,121). Then, the number spiked with an increase of 1,054 in 2017, when 7,175 hate crimes were reported.

Carroll County, though, has not aligned with that national uptick in hate crime statistics. Smith, who is also the special advisor to the provost on diversity initiatives, has a few ideas as to why that is.

“One, is I know in Carroll County, the leaders of the Carroll County Public Schools really focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, and have done a great job in pushing for not just diversity but for inclusion amongst the school — making sure sure there’s training throughout the school board,” he said. “Then, of course, you have the local groups that are part of the county that have been instrumental,like the local [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter], the local CCRE, Carroll Citizens for Racial Equality. All of them do great work throughout the year to try to help to make Carroll County a better place.”

Smith also thinks there might be a lower number of hate crimes in Carroll because of under-reporting by both victims and police.

“There has been a history of under-reporting incidents of hate crimes, not just in Maryland, but throughout the nation,” he said. “Where victims don’t report or police don’t record them or don’t record hate crimes as such. So, what we’re seeing could also just be part of that trend as well, of under-reporting.”

Smith also drew a connection with between this trend and America’s current political climate.

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“I think part of what we’re saying is that hate crimes, blatant forms of racism, have been re-energized by those who practice these things, instead of hiding it,” Smith said. “I think it correlates very well with the Trump administration coming in. There is a correlation between his candidacy all the way to his presidency; you see that hate crimes start to spike as a result. Of course, we don’t know if he caused it or the administration caused it but there is a correlation there. With that, I think people who practice those things are more willing to do so because they feel re-energized as a result of what’s going on in our nation right now.”

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