Members of the local NAACP branch say county officials have responded inadequately to several recent racial incidents in the county, including the distribution of white supremacist literature, vandalism of a black church and an attack on a black student riding a school bus.
At a news conference Saturday, Bowyer G. Freeman, president of thecounty NAACP chapter, called for aggressive prosecution of those involved in racist crimes and a public condemnation of the incidents by elected officials.
"We don't think the county is responding to these incidents appropriately," Freeman said. "We're asking them to bring all the resources we have to bear and let the perpetrators know this is not a place for this type of activity to occur."
Bev Wilhide, chief aide to County Executive Charles I. Ecker, said that he is "exceedingly concerned" about the racial incidents. Ecker released a statment Friday denouncing the incidents and is in the process of looking for a new administrator to head the county Office of Human Rights, Wilhide said.
The statement was issued a day after police found white supremacist literature distributed in a Columbia neighborhood for the second time in two months.
"Every time one of these hate incidents is allowed to occur, it victimizes all of our citizens," Ecker said. He also urged those with knowledge of such incidents to report them to the countypolice and the county Office of Human Rights.
"We got a statement, that's good," Freeman said yesterday. "I commend the executive for doing what he just did."
Dwight S. Thompson, deputy county state'sattorney, said his office has prosecuted racial and hate crimes whenappropriate.
"We've prosecuted every case where there is probablecause to indicate a violation of the law," Thompson said.
The NAACP also criticized the county Office of Human Rights for not providing "permanent, qualified leadership" during the recent spate of racialand hate crimes.
Ecker appointed Assistant County Administrator Maggie Brown as acting director of the office after Cynthia Harvey resigned from the post in December. He has said he hopes to name a permanent replacement by Feb. 1.
According to statistics from the county Office of Human Rights, the number of racial, religious and ethnic incidents has increased fourfold in the past five years, Freeman said. He cited a number of incidents within the past several months.
Last Thursday, police found numerous copies of a white supremacist newsletter on the lawns of a Wilde Lake neighborhood. The same issue of the newsletter was distributed Nov. 16 in the West Running Brook neighborhood.
Simpson United Methodist Church in Mount Airy, which hasan all-black congregation, was ransacked by vandals on three occasions last summer.
Adam Crigger, 20, of Gaithersburg pleaded guilty Dec. 9 to malicious destruction and a crime against religious property. A 17-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy, both from Mount Airy, were charged as juveniles in the incidents. They are scheduled to go before a Juvenile Court master soon.
On Dec. 4, a white seventh-grade student at Glenwood Middle School allegedly sprayed a 14-year-old black girl with a can of Lysol while the two were riding on the school bus. Howard county police filed a juvenile complaint against the boy with the state Department of Juvenile Services.
Freeman said that hewas pleased that police had made arrests in some of the incidents and that he hoped to see the individuals brought to trial.
"Not onlydo we want arrests, we want charges, convictions," he said.
"We want this thing brought to closure, and we want the community to know that this behavior must be discouraged appropriately."