Vol. 9, No. 34
August 23-29, 2001
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Hate Crimes: Track Down Culprits Now

Few actions undermine civilization like hate crimes.

One such act is murder, a horrific crime that not only ends a life but assures enduring pain for the victim’s family and friends.

Other terrible crimes include rape and vicious assaults that leave scars, physical and otherwise. Suffering also results from burglary and theft. Whole nations can be put at risk by treason.

Then there is the vague and elusive category of hate crimes, which cause damage in many of the same ways as crimes considered more serious.

Hate crimes damage psyches and erode trust in one another. The pain can be intense and long-lasting, and many times a community is never the same.

That may be the case in the attack two weeks ago on the Rapture Church in Lothian. In a cowardly rampage, vandals fouled the church with spray-painted racial slurs, stole or destroyed equipment and ruined food that was destined for the kitchens of older citizens and low-income families.

It would be easier if it were the case that hate-inspired crimes occur rarely, and then far away in backwards places. But that is far from true. In fact, three other incidents were recorded in Anne Arundel County within the past month.

In Gambrills, a clergyman’s home and auto were attacked and sprayed with slurs, among them “KKK.” An Hispanic man was assaulted in Annapolis.

And in another incident showing that all races incur blame, several African American youths attacked a white waitress in an Annapolis incident that police called racially motivated.

Statistics since last year are troubling indeed. Police say that since the beginning of 2000, there have been more than 70 suspected hate crimes in Anne Arundel County alone.

We would call that a hate crime epidemic, and the numbers suggest repeat attackers.

Hate crimes have similarities to other serious crimes, but in Anne Arundel there has been a principal difference: Never in 20 years has there been a successful prosecution.

It would be easy to find fault. We’d like to know, for instance, if police are using national resources to identify local members of established hate groups? Are prosecutors bargaining with hooligans charged with other crimes to develop leads?

We hope the answer to both questions will be yes now that Anne Arundel County States Attorney Frank Weatherbee is setting up a team to investigate and prosecute hate crimes.

He is promising to seek jail time for the heartless people who are causing this pain. In addition, his office says it will work with victims and their communities.

A byproduct of the plan - if it is carried out with resolve - will be heightened awareness of the sinister forces in our midst, dangerous elements that shred peace in Chesapeake Country and damage all of us with their vile actions.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly