Hate Crimes Spiked in Montgomery County in 2016

County Council President Roger Berliner attributed the spike to President Donald Trump's campaign

A dramatically higher number of hate crimes were reported in Montgomery County in 2015 than in 2016.

In 2016, 94 bias incidents were reported in the county. This marks a 42 percent increase over the 66 reports in 2015. About 36 percent of the bias incident reports in 2016 were reported in November and December.

County Council President Roger Berliner attributed the spike to President Donald Trump's campaign.

"The spike in hate crimes was a direct correlation to the kind of campaign that was run for the president of the United States. It unleashed an energy that is very destructive," he said Tuesday, as county police and officials met to address hate crimes.

During the year, "Trump Nation Whites Only" was written on the sign of a church in Silver Spring. Swastikas were drawn on the walls of a boys' room at a middle school and scratched into the tile at a high school. In Burtonsville, the cars of Trump supporters were vandalized.

Police Chief Tom Manger also linked the hate crimes to the election.

"When the election occurred, I think that some folks saw themselves as winners, some folks saw themselves as losers and they decided to act out on that emotion that they were feeling," he said.

Rev. Dr. Rosetta Robinson said that amid hate crimes, she has been inspired to see communities working together.

"Even when I hear these incidences, I am encouraged by faith communities that are standing up, supporting one another, whether or not it's a Muslim community or a Jewish community that has been the victims of the bias," she said.

Religious bias was identified by police as the primary bias motivation in 40 percent of the incidents in 2016, followed by racial bias at 36 percent. Other incidents were motivated by biases related to ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender.

So far in 2017, fewer bias crimes have been reported. But fear of deportation is growing, representatives say.

"There's a lot of anxiety right now among, you know, students who are wondering, Do I go to school? When I come home, are my parents going to be there?" County Councilwoman Nancy Navarro said.

Public schools associate superintendent Jonathan Brice reminded students and parents that schools are "safe places" where faculty and staff are told not to ask about immigration status.

Council members said they need to develop a plan to deal with deportations if they occur in the county. Councilman George Leventhal suggested starting a legal defense fund.

"We can raise a lot of private money because there are a lot of people of conscience who do not want for families to be separated and communities to be divided and people to live in fear," he said.

Some Council members said they may have to be ready to provide foster care for children whose parents are detained or deported.

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