Julie Goodwin Weber was walking her dog around 8 a.m. Nov. 28 in the Kentlands lakes area in the 100 block of Treehaven Street when she noticed a red swastika spray painted on the lid of a trash can. She said her first reaction was anger.
Gaithersburg Police Department (GPD) spokesman Officer Dan Lane confirmed they were alerted to the vandalism after receiving a call. A report was taken and will be turned over to investigators. He said the city’s Department of Public Works also planned to come remove the paint the same day.
Lane explained that this incident is being classified as vandalism and not a hate crime since it “was done to a trash can and not towards a specific individual or group. If it were to be painted on a building, place of worship or something similar, then it could be considered a hate crime. As it was spray painted on a trash can with no direction to a specific individual or group, it is being classified as a vandalism at this time.”
If this had been deemed a hate crime, it would have been the first this year for GPD.
Montgomery County Police (MCP), on the other hand, has seen a 17 percent increase in hate crimes and bias incidents this year as of mid-November with 62 incidents reported to police.
“As we look at a breakdown of these incidents, we find that the hate crimes this year are generally motivated by race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation,” said Chief Thomas Manger in a video posted to the department’s Facebook page. “We are also aware that some hate crimes are never reported to the police. Hate crimes are a serious issue for police. These crimes not only have a profound impact on the victim but they can also send shockwaves throughout our community. The emotional toll that an incident motivated by bias can have on our population is real. Each one of these cases represents a victim and a community that has been harmed. In fact, victims can be traumatized, angry, scared and frustrated. Some victims feel powerless and vulnerable and that’s why it is so important to demonstrate our care for these victims while we condemn these crimes.”
Manger said each reported hate crime is assigned to a detective to conduct a thorough investigation. In the past few weeks, he noted the department has seen “a disturbing uptick in the number of hate crimes in Montgomery County.”
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh also recently announced the creation of a hate speech hotline (1.866.481.8361) aimed at alerting local officials to incidents.
Manger also noted a number of hate crimes and bias-based incidents occurring recently in county schools. One incident of hate-based vandalism occurred Oct. 13 on the Quince Orchard High School football field. In a recent message to the community, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith said, “These are deeply disturbing incidents. Vandalism is illegal. This type of horrible vandalism is illegal. It’s a violation of MCPS policy and most importantly, it is simply wrong. Our security team is working closely with the police department to investigate these actions. Any students found to have engaged in this behavior will be subject to discipline in accordance with all MCPS policies.”
Manger noted that the increase in hate speech is troubling, but he is encouraged by the community’s response. “Parents, teachers, students, police officers and our entire community reject these cowardly acts and say in one strong voice ‘Hate is unacceptable. These acts are crimes against all of us and they will not be tolerated,’” Manger said. “Please know that your police department is doing everything in our power to keep every member of our community safe.”
On 11/17/2016 at 7:21 a.m., a theft from auto was reported in the 600 block of Chestnut Hill Mews. An unknown suspect(s) entered a vehicle and removed a back pack.
On 11/17/2016 at 7:22 a.m., a theft from auto was reported in the 700 block of Market Street. An unknown suspect(s) entered a vehicle and removed property.
— From Gaithersburg Police Department reports
On 11/28/16, a resident reported hate-based vandalism: A swastika was spray painted on a trash can lid near the Kentlands lakes in the 100 block of Treehaven Street.
— From NextDoor