The Baltimore Sun investigated 2 years of hate incident reports in Maryland. Here's what we found.

Founded as a place of religious freedom, Maryland has seen a sharp increase in reported hate – formal reports that people were harassed, threatened or even attacked because of their religion, race or sexual orientation.

In all, Maryland law enforcement agencies got 398 reports of hate or bias last year — up by more than a third from 2016.

An investigation by Baltimore Sun reporter Catherine Rentz took a close look at all of the nearly 700 reports filed over two years. The Sun built a database from the reports, which were made to local authorities and collected by the Maryland State Police.

Read the full investigation »

Here’s some of what she found:

Authorities couldn’t confirm all those reports, and concluded a handful were unfounded. But many experts believe the actual number of incidents is higher.

They note that people don’t always tell police. And they believe local police don’t always forward such reports to the State Police.

Eighty percent of Maryland’s 161 law enforcement agencies reported no hate incidents in the last two years.

Kent and Caroline Counties haven’t reported any hate or bias incidents over the last six years.

Only a small percentage of the reports in Maryland in 2017 led to arrests.

Smaller percentages led to prosecutions, convictions and sentences. In most cases, police were unable to identify suspects.

The state’s experience echoes a national increase in reported hate crimes, reversing what had been a long, gradual decline.

Maryland broadly requires the reporting of incidents against someone due to race, religion, and other characteristics. The FBI collects information from states only on crimes motivated by hate or bias.

Nationally, Justice Department officials say there likely were far more incidents than the 6,121 tallied by the FBI for 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated more than 200,000 hate crimes the year before.

Here’s what some of the reports said:

>> In Essex, an interracial couple was eating take-out in their car when a white man drove by and threw a glass bottle at the vehicle. He yelled the N-word and "we don’t date black people.”

>> In Montgomery County, a white man pointed a handgun at a Hispanic neighbor and threatened to kill the man and his family. He shouted that he voted for Donald Trump and the victim needed to leave the country.

>> In Anne Arundel County, three black sanitation workers on multiple occasions found racist messages on garbage bags left at one home. Messages included “black boy food,” “No [N-word]s needed” and “Nathan Bedford Forest [sic] forever.” Nathan Bedford Forrest was the first leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

>> At the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Jewish professors found their office doors defiled with anti-Semitic graffiti. In a separate incident, someone sent a note with a swastika and several obscenities to the former president of the Jewish student group Hillel, the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.

>> In Frederick County, a 15-year-old transgender girl was chased by a youth throwing rocks.

>> In Prince George’s County, a 29-year-old black woman was assaulted by a 53-year-old black man because she was talking to a white person and he didn’t want her to have white friends.

>> Days after the 2016 election, a 24-year-old black woman at an Abingdon gym found a note on her car that said, “[N-word]s not welcomed here! Go back to Africa Bitch! You better watch your back!! Trump 2016. Make America WHITE AGAIN!”

>> A 13-year-old girl was told by a boy at a middle school in Edgewater it would be fun to shoot her and her family because they were Muslim.

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You can read excerpts from all of the reports here.

To read a full account of The Sun’s investigation, click here.

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 United States. If you have been the victim of a hate crime, please use this form to contribute to this database.

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