Montgomery County is reaching out to people who’ve been targeted for verbal or physical abuse because of their race, ethnicity, religion or other reasons and who may be reluctant to report it to authorities.
“We’re kind of in a toxic environment right now,” Maryland State Sen. Susan Lee said.
She described contacts with Asian American and Pacific Islander constituents who told her about being targeted — verbally, physically or both — during the pandemic.
Lee said the fear hits close to home for her.
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“I mean, we’re scared,” she said. “I’m afraid when my mother just takes a walk. She’s elderly, and we’ve been seeing incidents even in Maryland.”
“Literally, people said this to us: If I see this happen, who do I call? What do I do?” Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said.
Pamphlets will be printed in several languages as part of a new community outreach to victims of hate crimes and bias incidents, McCarthy said.
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McCarthy, whose office has been recognized by the Anti-Defamation League for its prosecution of hate crimes, said he worries too many victims are suffering in silence.
“There are many times people are afraid to come forward to report that they’ve been victims of crimes, and look, this only allows the crimes to continue to perpetrate and be committed by these people over and over again,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said hate and bias incidents often bubble up from politics or world events. Earlier this month, vandals cut down the pro-Israel sign in front of a Potomac synagogue. Montgomery County police are investigating.