Report a Hate Crime or Incident

January 3, 2017

Surge in Reports of Hate Incidents Following Presidential Election

Over the past six months, reports of hate crimes have increased dramatically across the United States. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reported on November 29 that they had received over 900 cases of “hateful harassment and intimidation” in the ten days following Election Day, more than the number of incident reports in a standard six-month period. These hate incidents most often consist of acts of vandalism or hate speech, with the most common location of these incidents has been K-12 schools and universities. The majority of the victims belong to minority ethnic and religious groups, particularly African Americans, Muslims, Jews and those perceived as immigrants.

Below are a few examples of hate incidents specifically targeting Muslims and Islamic institutions:

  • Five California mosques received threatening letters praising President-elect Trump and threatening genocide against Muslims, “There's a new sheriff in town — President Donald Trump. He's going to cleanse America and make it shine again. And, he's going to start with you Muslims… he's going to do to you Muslims what Hitler did to the jews (sic)."
  • In El Cajon, California, a Muslim business owner received a typed note that read: “BE PREPARED TO GO BACK TO YOUR COUNTRY WITH ISIS…DONALD TRUMP WILL KICK ALL OF YOUR ASS BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM.”
  • A student at San Jose University was choked and fell when a man pulled her head scarf from behind in a parking garage.
  • Police in Ann Arbor, Michigan, are investigating reports a man approached a Muslim student and threatened to set her on fire with a lighter unless she removed her hijab.
  • At New York University's Tandon School of Engineering, students discovered Trump's name written on the door to a prayer room for Muslims.

What Constitutes a Hate Crime?

Criminal activity motivated by bias is different from other types of criminal conduct. In a hate crime, the perpetrator selects his or her victim because of the victim's actual or perceived status, such as the victim's race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.

Hate crime laws impose tougher penalties on criminals who target their victims because of the victim’s actual or perceived status, and evidence of such targeting is important when prosecuting cases of hate crimes. Although the specific definition of what constitutes a hate crime varies by jurisdiction, 45 states, the District of Colombia, and the federal government have all enacted hate crimes laws.

Reacting to a Hate Crime

1. Get medical help, if necessary.

2. Once you have removed yourself to a safe location, try to record, in writing, every element of the event or incident that you can remember. Write down a description of every mark, note, word or item on a suspicious package or note the license, color, make, and model of a suspicious vehicle. If known, include the perpetrator[s] gender, age, height, race, weight, clothes and other distinguishing characteristics. If any threats or biased comments were made, include them in the report.

3. Do not handle evidence (e.g., a rock thrown through a window). In addition, do not erase or paint over graffiti until the police say you may do so. While the temptation to erase graffiti is a strong one, it is very important that the police are able to examine the graffiti firsthand and get evidence from it. Consistent with your safety, take a picture of whatever is your cause of concern.

4. File a police report

A. Get the responding officer’s name and badge number

B. Make sure the officer files an incident report form and assigns a case number. If a police report is not taken at the time of your report, go to the police station and ask for one. Always get your own copy, even of the preliminary report.

C. If you believe the incident was bias-motivated, urge the officer to check the “hate/bias-motivation” or “hate crime/incident” box on the police report.

5. In addition to filing a police report, you may report the incident to your local FBI field office for potential further investigation. You may also contact your state Attorney General’s office to inform them of the incident. Muslim Advocates has compiled a comprehensive list of resources that can be used to report hate crimes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Security Recommendations

Following the recent incidents involving threatening letters, we recommend that individuals review these suspicious mail and package handling suggestions. Please also find the following tips for securing your community:

  • Security Committee

Establishing a security committee should be the first step in developing a successful security plan for any institution or organization. The committee should bring together community leaders for the purpose of developing security practices specific to the community and to present a unified front to the constituency. The security committee will also be responsible for implementing security procedures and training as well as maintaining constant security readiness. Additional information on the roles and responsibilities of a security committee can be viewed here.

  • Vulnerability Assessments Program

The NJ Department of Homeland Security has published a Facility Self-Assessment to identify security vulnerabilities at your building. This is a quick method to determine the security posture and preparedness of your organization and can be used in determining security goals and budgeting going forward.

  • Security guards

Institutions should consider hiring security guards to be a deterrent to potential threats and to act as the first responder if an emergency or threatening situation arises. However, the primary responsibility of a security guard is to prevent crimes before they happen by observing and reporting suspicious or unusual activity as it happens. For this reason, a security guard must be an individual who is proactive and vigilant in his responsibilities and duties. A guide for hiring security guards can be viewed here; and for those contemplating whether to hire an armed guard, the link here will detail considerations for employing armed vs. unarmed guards.

  • Security Preparedness Policies, Procedures and Training

In order for a security plan to be successful in mitigating threats, it must thoroughly address potential threats with detailed plans, procedures, and training, while also being flexible enough to adapt to diverse and unexpected situations. It may be helpful to review DHS’s Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship as your institution develops security/emergency plans.

The following videos may be helpful when training constituents for emergency situations:

See Something, Say Something / Suspicious Activity Reporting

Individuals are the most fundamental piece in threat prevention, with each member having a role to play in ensuring the security of the community. All individuals must be aware of their surroundings at all times and be vigilant in countering threats to the community. The best way to do so is through the “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign, which is a simple and effective program to engage the public and key frontline employees in identifying and reporting indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats. This program allows every individual to contribute to our shared homeland security efforts and create a culture of security within the community. DHS has produced a video discussing suspicious activity reporting, which can be viewed here.

Law Enforcement Collaboration

Establishing and maintaining strong ties and relationships with local law enforcement and first responders is a critical component of your security program. Law enforcement officials can assist with security planning, crime prevention and address general security concerns. Getting to know you and your facility will assist them in the event an emergency situation arises at your facility or organization. Consider sharing maps, floor plans and blue prints with police & first responders; familiarity with your facility is critical for emergency response, particularly during events such active shooter incidents or hostage situations. Invite law enforcement to visit your facility, stop in for coffee or park in your parking lot to write reports. You may even consider hiring off-duty police officers for security details for special events.

Event Planning

Hosting celebrations over the holidays or special events are a great way to bring the community together, but also present additional security risks and considerations. Large public events put institutions at greater risk because they can be specifically targeted and require additional security preparations to accommodate larger crowds. A short list of steps that event planners can use in preparing for special events that can be viewed here.



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