Hate bias incident reports increased slightly in Maryland from 2018 to 2019, according to an annual report by the State Police.
The share of reports verified by police, however, dropped between those two years, from about 27% to roughly 22% — continuing a downward trend from 2017, when roughly 46% of reports were verified.
According to the report, an incident is considered verified when an investigation “leads a reasonable and prudent person to conclude that the offender’s actions were motivated, in whole or in part, by their bias” against an individual’s protected status. In Maryland, motivations of bias are tracked by race, ethnicity or ancestry; religion; sexual orientation; gender identity; gender; disability; and homelessness.
Continuing on a similar trajectory, the percentage of reports found inconclusive also increased slightly from 2018 to 2019, from roughly 69% to about 72%. According to the report, an incident is found inconclusive when “the evidence is conflicting, incomplete, or otherwise insufficient to classify as verified.”
Reports deemed unfounded after an investigation — meaning that evidence has indicated that the incident was not motivated by bias against an individual’s protected status or did not occur — also increased between the two years, from 4% to roughly 6%.
From 2018 to 2019, hate bias incidents reported to the police increased from 375 to 385, following a sharp increase in incidents the previous year, when reports spiked from 295 to 398 in 2017. Bias reports have been rising over the last 10 years, according to the state’s findings. Maryland experienced an average of 356 hate bias incidents each year from 2016 to 2018, and an average of 386 incidents each year from 2017-2019.
Similar to previous years, four counties in Maryland made up 80.2% of all hate bias reporting in 2019: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery. In all, these counties reported 309 hate bias incidents. Montgomery County surpassed Anne Arundel County for the most hate bias incidents reported last year, with 108 incidents reported, according to the 2019 stats.
In a similar trend, incidents reported to have been motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry continued to be the most reported last year, making up roughly 64% of all bias motivations reported. From 2017 to 2019, according to the report, the majority of hate bias incidents were attributed to this protected status, followed by religion and sexual orientation.
Breaking News Alerts
The majority of incidents reported as being motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry were identified as “Anti-Black or African American” in the 2019 report, comprising about 79% of all such reports. Roughly 90% of incidents reported as being motivated by religion were identified as “Anti-Jewish” in the report.
Fifty incidents were reported as being motivated by sexual orientation and nine were reported as being motivated by gender identity.
Arrests made as a result of a verified hate bias incident also increased slightly from 2018 to 2019, from 14 arrests to 16 last year — representing a drop from 29 arrests in 2017.
A law passed last legislative session, though, will make hate crimes easier to prosecute. Named after 1st Lt. Richard Collins III, a Black Bowie State student who was murdered by a white man from Severna Park in 2017, the law amended Maryland’s hate crimes statute to include crimes “motivated either in whole or in part by” hate or bias. Before, the statute only covered crimes that were solely motivated by hate or bias.
Though the man who killed Collins, Sean Urbanski, had saved several racist memes on his phone and belonged to a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich: Nation,” a judge threw out the hate crime charge against him. Afterward, Collins' parents campaigned for the law change in their son’s honor.
Last year, the zip code where the University of Maryland is located — 20742 in Prince George’s County — reported the most hate bias incidents in the state, at 19. According to the previous year’s report, that zip code reported one of the highest numbers of hate bias incidents in the state. Collins was murdered on the university’s campus in 2017.
According to the 2019 report, 34.2% of all reporting happened at an academic institution, including elementary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities. The zip code that includes Towson University, 21252 in Baltimore County, also yielded one of the highest numbers of hate bias incident reports.