'The best place for all’ slogan is aspirational: New report shows Anne Arundel second in the state for reports of hate crimes and bias incidents

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman has changed the county slogan twice since taking office, first, he shortened it to “The best place,” and after a recent statewide report on hate crimes and bias incidents showed Anne Arundel with the highest numbers, he changed it to, “The best place for all.” The signs were updated after the holidays, which Pittman’s senior advisor Chris Trumbauer said the Department of Public Works handled the signage updates for less than $10,000. Photo courtesy of Steuart Pittman.

Reports of hate crimes and bias incidents in Anne Arundel County increased slightly in 2019. However, Montgomery County surpassed Anne Arundel as the jurisdiction with the highest instance of reports in the state, according to a new report from the Maryland State Police.

The State of Maryland 2019 Hate Bias Report shows 81 reports of hate crimes or bias incidents in 2019, up from 78 in 2018, continuing the trend of increases beginning in 2014. Many of the incidents were reported in the northern part of Anne Arundel County, with a heat map showing each zip code by color based on the range of incidents reported. Between 12 and 19 incidents reported in Pasadena ZIP code 21122; and between six and 11 incidents reported in each of Glen Burnie ZIP codes 21060 and 21061 and in Millersville ZIP code 21108.


These numbers include both hate crimes — or a crime motivated by prejudice ― and hate bias incidents, which do not rise to the level of criminal charges.

The report distinguishes incidents as verified, meaning 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"; inconclusive, meaning the evidence is conflicting or incomplete, or unfounded, meaning that evidence or an investigation “definitively indicates that it was not motivated by bias.”


Of Anne Arundel County’s 81 reported hate bias incidents, five were verified, 72 were inconclusive and 4 were unfounded. Prince George’s County accounted for the most verified incidents with 29, 87.9% of the total number of reports of incidents in the county.

House Minority Leader Del. Nic Kipke said he thinks it’s wrong to assume that Pasadena is more racist than any other part of the county because of its incident counts. Perhaps reporting has increased due to increased attention to racial discrimination over the past few years.

“We are trying to stop these types of things from happening,” Kipke said. “Our entire community condemns racism, and we are all invested to ensure that those problems end.”

County and state officials were alarmed after last year’s report showed Anne Arundel with the highest numbers of reports. In response, County Executive Steuart Pittman moved to treat racism as a public health issue; attended training on policymaking through a racial equity lens; organized an educational hate bias forum in February with the Human Relations Commission; established an Office of Health Equity and Racial Justice within the health department; and amended the county slogan to: “The best place for all."

The findings of the report underscore that the county’s slogan is aspirational, Pittman said.

He said he wouldn’t have expected these efforts to curb racism would affect the data immediately but hopes it will make the county a safer and more equitable place for all people.

He said that last year’s report showing Anne Arundel at the top of the list served as a wake-up call, driving county officials to act. But moving below Montgomery County isn’t good news.

“I don’t celebrate the fact that Montgomery County had more — that’s also bad news," Pittman said.


Since state police released this report last year, Pasadena has seen a flurry of activism. Young organizers made it the site of several demonstrations for racial justice over the summer as communities across the nation grappled with systemic racism and police brutality, and hyperlocal groups like One Pasadena have popped up to address racism.

Harry Freeman, a member of the group’s steering committee, said the group was founded after the publication of last year’s hate bias report. Now, he said, they are trying to remind the community that, “These are real stories that affect real people.”

The group doesn’t view racism along strictly political party lines but as a cultural and historical problem. Nor does the group view racism purely as a Black versus white issue, Freeman said, noting that Latinos and Asian Americans also experience discrimination.

“The thing about racism is that it’s not genetic. It’s not something you’re born with,” Freeman said. “You’re either overtly taught to hate, or it’s learned.”


Across the state, more than 64% of incidents appear to be motivated by bias related to race, ethnicity or ancestry. In Anne Arundel County, these race motivated incidents include: an effigy hung on the property of the county’s first Black councilman last October that was said to be a Halloween stunt, a swastika found at South River High School, or a racist video made by students at Northeast High School.

Elementary and secondary schools are the most common location for people to report hate bias incidents across the state, followed closely by homes, according to the report.

Pittman said every incident reported to county police is referred to the Anne Arundel Crisis Response, and victims are offered support or connected with counseling services if needed.

Since last year’s report was released, Anne Arundel state legislators strengthened hate crime laws by making it illegal to threaten or intimidate a group or individual with symbols including nooses or swastikas. The legislation was championed by Del. Mark Chang, D-Glen Burnie, who is one of the first Korean Americans to be elected to serve in Maryland’s General Assembly.

It passed this year, in a session shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, after two failures during the two previous sessions. The new law took effect on Oct. 1.

In testimony for the bill, Chang recounted the story of discovering a dead cat hanging from a noose in his yard shortly after immigrating to the United States. He was 7, he said, but he carries the trauma of that experience to this day.


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He said he hopes the new law, and the punishments that come with violating it, will deter people from bias-motivated behavior, but the work of the legislature to “eradicate hate” is not done.

Though the data does not reflect the past seven months of the coronavirus pandemic, Chang said he has faced discrimination due to his Asian American identity. Despite guidance from the World Health Organization to avoid referring to the virus by names that include geographic locations, President Donald Trump has continued to do so as recently as last week, while he is recovering from the virus himself.

Chang called the narrative disgusting and said he was very disappointed it has seeped into this community.

“I have the honor of being a representative," he said. “I just wonder, for those who are not in that position, what are they experiencing?”

NEW LAW ALERT! Today Senate Bill 161 and House Bill 5, Hate Crimes - Use of a Symbol or Item to Threaten or Intimidate,...

Posted by Senator Sarah Elfreth on Thursday, October 1, 2020