Attack on hate crimes planned

NAACP, panel seek Owens' aid against racial vandalism

`We need some strategies'

September 11, 2001|By Johnathon E. Briggs | Johnathon E. Briggs,SUN STAFF

The latest incident in a rash of race-related vandalism in Anne Arundel County has spurred community and county leaders to seek a concerted attack on hate crimes.

Local NAACP officials said yesterday that they plan to meet Monday with County Executive Janet S. Owens to discuss how the county is dealing with the incidents.

"We need some strategies to deal with these hate crimes. They're giving Anne Arundel County a bad name," said Gerald G. Stansbury, the local NAACP president. Stansbury was referring to the most recent vandalism, in which racial epithets and anti-government slogans were spray-painted during the weekend in two Churchton homes under construction.

"Even one hate crime is one too many," he said of the four race-related crimes in South County, which began last month.

Before the most recent incident, hate crimes had been on the agenda for Monday's meeting, one of the quarterly meetings the NAACP and several other black community groups hold with Owens to discuss their concerns. But that incident has renewed a focus on the county's role in preventing confronting race-related crimes, officials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said.

Hate crimes will also be addressed at a Human Relations Commission meeting Thursday, which will be open to the public, county spokesman Matt Diehl said yesterday. The commission will make recommendations to the county executive before Monday's meeting with black community leaders, he said.

"The county executive wants to get all the information and get a plan together as soon as possible," Diehl said.

In a little more than a month, the Crofton house and the car of a black minister were spray-painted with expletives, threats and racial slurs, along with the letters "KKK" and the numerals "666," a satanic symbol; a Lothian church was looted and desecrated with Satanic and racial epithets; and the letters "KKK" were spray-painted on the garage door of an Edgewater house about to be sold to a black family. The family backed out of the sale.

No arrests have been made in the incidents, which apparently are unrelated, county police spokesman Lt. Joseph E. Jordan said yesterday.

Police said the latest incident, at two adjacent Churchton houses, occurred overnight Saturday. Sunday, a jogger noticed graffiti inside the two-story Colonial houses in the 1200 block of Chesapeake Drive, in the Franklin Manor neighborhood.

In black spray paint, vandals had scrawled "Go back to Africa" and "Kill the Jews," along with "Kill Bush," "Down with Democracy" and "Up with Communism" on walls inside the houses, police said. The homes are owned by James Robinson of Davidsonville, whose company is constructing the buildings.

Jordan said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime and that police have found no witnesses.

It was not clear yesterday whether the incidents were the work of organized hate groups or copycats, Jordan said. But he added, "We take all of these crimes seriously."

The latest incident occurred three weeks after county prosecutors announced a stepped-up effort to handle suspected hate crimes.

In 20 years, the county has not successfully prosecuted a hate crime, largely because few arrests are made. Last year, 55 hate crimes were reported in the county. In 1999, there were 71 reported, with 41 of them verified, according to Maryland State Police statistics.

Stansbury said he was glad to see the state's attorney's office taking a stand against hate crimes but added that the NAACP would also like the county Human Relations Commission to act.

The commission's meeting Thursday will be at 6 p.m. at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

County police are asking anyone with information about the most recent crime to call Southern District police at 410-222-1961.

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