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Hate and bias crimes down, police use of force slightly up in Montgomery Co.

Hate and bias crime statistics in Montgomery County, Maryland, are trending in a good way. The area saw a decrease in 2018 compared to 2017, though use of force by officers was up slightly, according to two new annual reports from the county’s police department.

“There has been increased attention to hate crimes since the spike that occurred in the months following the elections in November 2016. Fortunately, we have seen the trend of bias crimes subside in Montgomery County,” police Chief Tom Manger said in one report.

Bias incidents by month in Montgomery County, Maryland. (Courtesy Montgomery County Police)

There were 93 reported bias incidents in 2018, a 24 percent drop from the 123 reported incidents in 2017, and fewer than the 98 reported incidents in 2016.

Of those 93, 39 were motivated by race, while 37 were motivated by religion — primarily against the county’s Jewish (28) community, though Jewish people make up only about 10 percent of the overall population.

Bias motivation. (Courtesy Montgomery County Maryland Police)
Bias motivation. (Courtesy Montgomery County police)

The 39 race-motivated incidents were predominantly anti-black (26). Most, 31 percent, of the incidents occurred in some form of graffiti or vandalism. And the most common form of vandalism was the swastika. But of the 29 incidents that happened in 2018, only nine were in or near a school.

Those numbers also mark a 42 percent drop in vandalism from 2017.

There were also five incidents that targeted more than one group with vandalism, letters and flyers.

One unpleasant find in the report is the age of the people police have identified as suspects in these cases. While lower than previous years, 15 of 53 suspects identified in 2018 are under 18.

“That trend is welcome, but the involvement of youth in these cases should be a wake-up call that more education and conversation needs to occur,” Manger said.

“Young people need to understand the harm of targeting anyone for hate, threats or ridicule based on one’s race, religion, ethnicity, appearance, manner of speech or any other class or condition protected by law,” he added.

Types of bias incidents. (Courtesy Montgomery County police)

“Hate and prejudice have a profound impact on our community. No one should live in fear, all people should be encouraged to report hate crimes,” Manger said. “The MCPD remains committed to upholding the civil and human rights of all residents of Montgomery County.”

In a separate report, the Montgomery County Police Department found that use of force by officers was up slightly.

Of the 219,162 calls police responded to, use of force was exercised in 542 cases. That’s a 3.6 percent increase from 523 incidents in 2017, where officers responded to 229,884 calls.

The majority of cases where force was used (68.8 percent) were for assaults, mental illness‐related calls, narcotics/DUI offenses and disorderly conduct. Officers used their hands in an overwhelming 80.2 percent of those cases.

Read the report on hate and bias crimes (PDF)

Read the report on police use of force (PDF)

WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report.

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