By Mary O’KEEFE
A group of concerned community members met on Thursday at the Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church to discuss hate crimes and how to take a proactive step to protect neighborhoods from these acts. Rev. Steve Marshall, Marisol Medina and Kayli Blundell organized the evening.
Recently several Jewish Community Centers and cemeteries across the nation have been vandalized. Locally there have been few incidents; some were shared on social media but not reported to law enforcement. A few were reported.
In December 2016 a family on Pickens Avenue in Montrose found a swastika with the word “Trump” painted on their garage door. This was enough to spark the community members, led by Marshall and Medina, to meet to form a plan to protect all citizens in the area and to make it clear this type of hatred is not acceptable in Crescenta Valley.
The group heard from Glendale Police Officer Joe Allen about what the definition of a “hate crime” is. It also heard that there have been few reported incidents in the City of Glendale. In 2012 and 2013 there was one reported each year, and two incidents were reported each year in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept.-Crescenta Valley Station has low statistics as well. Sgt. Alan Chu, who is the hate crime coordinator at the CV Station, said the closest thing to a hate crime reported lately was a report of someone finding a swastika drawn in the dirt at a location. The reporting person just noticed the symbol but did not see anyone draw it.
“There was a recent incident at the Glen Haven Cemetery but that appeared to be vandalism and not hate crime [driven],” Chu said.
Whatever the numbers, those in attendance were dedicated to being proactive against the occurrence of hate crimes with one member of the audience adding that she felt strongly that there needed to be a collective response to what occurred in December.
There were many suggestions on how to move forward in the formation of a group or organization that would share positive information concerning the diversity of the Crescenta Valley and to celebrate the diversity instead of fearing it.
“We have to make a change in ourselves when we have a dialogue on race and how to move forward,” said CV Town Councilmember Brandon Lee.
He added it was important to work from the present day forward and not to let history, or historical prejudice, taint what is needed to be done today.
There were suggestions to reach out to groups that are already having a discussion of inclusion and combatting hateful talk and actions. Blundell had done some research and shared information on the Oakland-based nonprofit project “Not In Our Town.”
The project was introduced to the public via a 1995 PBS documentary of the efforts of residents of Billings, Montana to stand up against hate crimes. The homes of a Jewish family and a Native American family and an African-American church were all attacked with hate- driven vandalism. The town people reacted by supporting their neighbors … all their neighbors. After screening the documentary in a California town the organization found that people did not want to talk about Billings but about experiences they had in their own town.
Blundell was inspired by this organization and contacted the members. She wants to use their template as a foundation for the CV group believing that proactive and unifying efforts are ways to reach out to the community with their message. Ideas include holding an essay contest for local students to having signs in the front yards of businesses and homes simply stating “Not In Our Town.”
For anyone who would like to join this effort, has suggestions or has questions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“What we want to do is find everyone’s strengths,” said Medina. “We need to learn to respect and understand our differences and take pride in our community.”
Information from the GPD regarding hate crimes:
“This department recognizes and places a high priority on the rights of all individuals guaranteed under the Constitution and the laws of this state. When such rights are infringed upon by violence, threats or other harassment, this department will utilize all available resources to see that justice is served under the law.”
What is a Hate Crime?
– Penal Code § 422.55(a) defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed in whole or in part, because of one or more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim:
(d) Race or ethnicity
(f) Sexual orientation
(g) Association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics
The federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act expands federal hate crimes to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability (18 USC § 245).
Criteria for Determining Hate Crimes
Examples of hate crimes include, but are not limited to:
• Interfering with, oppressing or threatening any other person in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the constitution or laws because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim (Penal Code § 422.6).
• Defacing a person’s property because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim (Penal Code § 422.6(b)).
• Terrorizing a person with a swastika or burning cross (Penal Code § 11411).
• Vandalizing a place of worship (Penal Code § 594.3).
Guidelines for hate crime determination are as follows:
• The hate crime must involve a specific target, such as an individual, residence, house of worship, religious or ethnic organization, or business.
• Graffiti must be racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual orientation biased in nature, such as swastika, KKK, Nazi, or other hate group symbols or slogans, or involve the use of epithets.
• Bigotry must be the central motive for the attack, rather than economics, revenge, etc., as in other kinds of crime.
• Any assault against a person, in the absence of other apparent motivation, when initiated for racial, ethnic, religious, or sexual orientation reasons, will be considered a hate crime.
• Vandalism to a house of worship, or ethnic, religious, or gay and lesbian organization will be considered a hate crime in the absence of evidence of other motives.
• Obscene or threatening phone calls, when containing racial, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation slurs are considered hate crimes.
Although the following are of concern because they may reflect inter group tension, they would be not considered hate crimes unless aimed at a specific target:
• Graffiti on freeway overpasses, public phone facilities, etc.
• Neo-Nazi or gang graffiti, even if accompanied by a swastika.
• Interracial crimes, such as robbery, assault, or rape, which are motivated by factors other than race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
• Intra-group acts, regardless of graffiti; this includes gang graffiti and other gang acts.
• Name calling and epithets not accompanied by assault or other criminal act.
• KKK, Nazi, or other hate crime rallies, leafleting, or recruiting drives, though reprehensible, are not hate crimes.