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Hate crimes in Virginia were up nearly 50% year over year, State Police data shows

Hate crimes in Virginia rose nearly 50 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the most recent report from the Virginia State Police. That surge, along with the neo-Nazi rally that left a counterprotester dead in Charlottesville, prompted state Attorney General Mark Herring to propose legislation to address the problem. However, all of the bills died in this year’s General Assembly.

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By Jayla Marie McNeill and Ben Burstein

Virginia recorded more than 200 hate crimes in 2017 — up nearly 50% from the previous year, according to the latest data from the Virginia State Police.

That surge, along with the neo-Nazi rally that left a counterprotester dead in Charlottesville two years ago, prompted state Attorney General Mark Herring to propose legislation to address the problem. However, all of the bills died in this year’s General Assembly.

The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

According to data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 7,175 hate crimes were reported across the U.S. in 2017. About 60% of those crimes were related to race, 21% to religion and 16% to sexual orientation.

In Virginia, hate crimes jumped from 137 in 2016 to 202 the following year, according to the Virginia State Police. Virginia had more hate crimes in 2017 than during any year since 2008.

Of the 202 hate crimes committed in 2017:

  • 89 (44%) were racially motivated
  • 44 (22%) were religiously motivated
  • 38 (19%) were related to sexual orientation,
  • 20 (10%) were related to ethnicity
  • 11 (5%) were motivated by bias against disability

Herring has been concerned about the issue for several years. In 2016, he launched his “No Hate VA” initiative, which included creating a website and holding discussion groups across the state to address the rise in hate crimes.

“I’m putting these ideas forward and convening these roundtables because it’s time for action,” Herring stated in a press release.

“I will do everything I can and work with anyone who wants to ensure that all Virginians are protected from hate and violence, no matter what they look like, how they worship, where they come from, or who they love.”

In August 2017, a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville turned deadly after James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counterdemonstrators, injuring dozens of people and killing Heather Heyer. Herring then amped up his fight against hate crimes and white supremacist groups.

In 2018 and again this year, Herring called on the General Assembly to pass laws dealing with hate crimes. His 2019 legislative agenda included:

  • Updating Virginia’s definition of “hate crime” by adding gender and sexual orientation.
  • Allowing the attorney general to prosecute hate crimes across multiple jurisdictions.
  • Prohibiting paramilitary activity such as “drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm or explosive or incendiary device.”
  • Banning firearms from public events.
  • Banning firearms from individuals who have been convicted of a hate crime.

Virginia defines a hate crime as “any legal act directed against any persons or property because of those persons’ race, religion or national origin.”

Unlike the federal definition, Virginia’s definition of a hate crime does not include gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. (In its annual statistics, the Virginia State Police categorize offenses according to the federal definition.)

Legislation to expand Virginia’s definition of a hate crime was carried by Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington. SB 1375 was killed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on an 8-6 party-line vote, with Republicans voting against the bill.

Democratic Sens. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth and Creigh Deeds of Bath County sponsored the legislation to prohibit paramilitary activity. SB 1210 sought to charge individuals with a Class 5 felony if “a person is guilty of unlawful paramilitary activity if such person assembles with another person with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons by drilling, parading, or marching with any firearm or explosive or incendiary device or any components or combination thereof.”

The bill cleared the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on a 7-6 vote but died in the Senate Finance Committee.

In all, 10 bills before the General Assembly this year attempted to address hate crimes. Seven of the bills were defeated in the House of Delegates and three in the Senate.

For example, two identical bills were introduced to let local governments prohibit firearms at public events: HB 1956 by Del. David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, and SB 1473 by Deeds. Both measures aimed to authorize “any locality by ordinance to prohibit the possession or carrying of firearms, ammunition, or components or any combination thereof in a public space during a permitted event or an event that would otherwise require a permit.”

Both bills died in their chamber of origin.

Despite the lack of legislative action, advocacy groups across Virginia are working to help victims of hate crimes. Assistance ranges from counseling to lawyer referrals.

Herring’s “No Hate VA” includes resources for victims of hate crimes as well as advice on how to report a crime.

The website encourages victims to immediately report hate crimes to the police and to their local FBI office. The FBI has an online form at https://tips.fbi.gov

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The Capital News Service is a flagship program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. In the program, journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute their stories, photos, and other content to more than 100 newspapers, television and radio stations, and news websites.

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Mayor Stoney names members of “Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety”

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

RVAHub Staff

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Today Mayor Levar Stoney announced the members of the Task Force to Reimagine Public Safety and outlined his primary requests of the diverse group of professionals. The majority of task force members stood with the mayor for the announcement.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but this group’s diversity of expertise and lived experiences is a key asset on our path forward,” said the mayor. “I am thrilled to have this team help our city heal.”

The members of the task force bring an array of perspectives from activist, legal, academic, law enforcement, emergency services, artistic, healthcare, and other fields. At the close of a 45-day period, the task force will bring the mayor a set of actionable steps forward to build a safer city for all.

“After additional conversations and review of actions taken in other cities, I do not believe we can wait to begin acting on reform recommendations,” said Mayor Stoney. “I have asked this task force to report back with initial recommendations within 45 days of their first meeting.”

The mayor established three foundational requests of the task force: reviewing the police department’s use of force policies, exploring an approach to public safety that uses a human services lens, and prioritizing community healing and engagement.

“We need a new process for noncriminal and nonviolent calls for service, and that will be a top priority for this task force,” noted the mayor. “We must center compassion instead of consequences.”

Regarding community healing and engagement, the mayor said that the task force will allow the city to explore methods of engagement that will enable meaningful change, using his support for the Virginia Black Legislative Caucus’ legislative package as an example.

“Last month I expressed my support for the VBLC’s package for the summer session,” said Mayor Stoney. “This task force can determine where the city can explore complementary legislation and where we need to focus community advocacy to make statewide change a reality.”

Members of the Task Force

Carol Adams, Richmond Police Department
Ram Bhagat,
 Manager of School Culture and Climate Strategy for RPS

Glenwood Burley, retired RPD officer

Keisha Cummings, community engagement specialist, founder of 2LOVE LLC, member of the Richmond Transparency and Accountability Project and the Richmond Peace Team

Torey Edmonds, Community Outreach Coordinator at VCU Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development

Professor Daryl Fraser, VCU School of Social Work professor and licensed clinical social worker

Triston Harris, Black Lives Matters organizer and organizer of the 5,000 Man March Against Racism

Birdie Hairston Jamison, former district court judge for the 13th Judicial District in Virginia

Councilman Mike Jones

Shanel Lewis, Youth Violence Prevention Specialist at the Richmond City Health District

Brandon Lovee, Richmond artist and advocate, member of the Richmond Peace Team

Colette McEachin, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney

Reverend Dontae McCutchen, Love Cathedral Community Church

Dr. Lisa Moon, Associate Provost at VCU and former Director of the Center for the Study of the Urban Child

Sergeant Brad Nixon, RPD

Tracy Paner, Public Defender for the City of Richmond

Bill Pantele, Richmond attorney and former City Council Member

Professor William Pelfrey, VCU professor with expertise in emergency preparedness and policing

Councilwoman Ellen Robertson

Rodney Robinson, National Teacher of the Year and teacher at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center

Patrice Shelton, Community Health Worker in Hillside Court and director of the Hillside Court Partnership

Lashawnda Singleton, President of the Richmond Association of Black Social Workers

Sheba Williams, Executive Director of NoLef Turns

Courtney Winston, Richmond trial attorney

The Mayor’s Office is specifically working with the Office of Community Wealth Building’s Community Ambassadors to identify additional community members, including youth, to be part of the task force’s important work and to assist with community engagement.

The task force is committed to a transparent process and will make meeting minutes available to the public.

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Firearms Now Prohibited in City-Owned Buildings, Parks, and Recreational Facilities

The new rules went into effect on July 1st.

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From the Office of the Mayor:

As of July 1, firearms are prohibited in city-owned buildings, parks, recreational facilities and community facilities. This includes, but is not limited to: City Hall, community centers, the two Department of Social Services locations and all public parks.

Richmond City Council passed the mayor’s ordinance to prohibit guns in city buildings and parks in July 2019. However, the prohibition did not go into effect until July 1, 2020 because the state only recently voted to give municipalities the power to limit guns in certain spaces.

“No Richmonder should ever be threatened by gun violence,” said Mayor Stoney. “This is especially true in public spaces like parks and community centers, where residents expect to enjoy public amenities, not fear for their lives.”

“Paired with our reporting requirement on illegal guns, this key legislative change is a model we should replicate and a foundation we should build on,” continued Mayor Stoney. “Carrying the memory of Markiya Dickson in our hearts, we must continue to advocate and innovate for a safer, stronger Richmond.”

The text of the city code, § 19-334.1 Carrying firearms in certain places, reads:

No person shall carry any firearm within any City-owned building, park, or recreation or community facility. This prohibition shall not apply to any duly authorized (i) military personnel in the performance of their lawful duties, (ii) law enforcement officer, or (iii) security guard contracted or employed by the City.  (Ord. No. 2019-165, § 1, 7-1-2019)

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Humberto Cardounel announces retirement as Henrico’s chief of police

Henrico County Chief of Police Humberto “Hum” Cardounel Jr. announced on Monday his plans to retire effective Sept. 1, ending a nearly 32-year career with the Police Division and four-year tenure as its leader.

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Henrico County Chief of Police Humberto “Hum” Cardounel Jr. announced on Monday his plans to retire effective Sept. 1, ending a nearly 32-year career with the Police Division and four-year tenure as its leader.

Cardounel revealed his plans and underscored his gratitude to Henrico in an email to division staff, recalling how he applied to only Henrico when he sought to become a police officer. He announced no immediate plans and said he has concluded “it is time for me to pass the torch onto the next generation of police leadership.”

Cardounel said he will take advantage of Henrico’s Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program. A cost-cutting measure available during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program offers enhanced benefits to eligible employees who choose to retire.

“I started this career as a 21-year-old college graduate with little thought as to what the future held for me,” Cardounel said in his email. “I thought I would do this for just a few years, but it wasn’t long after that I realized this was my ‘home’. It felt right, Henrico was the right place for me. Nearly 32 years later Henrico is still my home and still the right place for me.”

County Manager John A. Vithoulkas praised Cardounel for his “more than three decades of outstanding service and his calm, steady leadership as chief.”

“Hum has left an irreplaceable mark on Henrico and its Police Division, having served in nearly every facet of the agency’s work throughout his long, distinguished career,” Vithoulkas said. “Hum also has demonstrated what it means to serve with heart, and Henrico is stronger, safer and eternally grateful that he selected our community as his home.”

Cardounel joined the division as a patrol officer and a SWAT Team medic in 1988. He rose through the ranks to investigator and later sergeant, command sergeant, lieutenant, captain and major. He served as deputy chief for the Patrol Bureau, led the Criminal Investigations Section, developed and implemented the Homeland Security Section, and provided leadership and service to the Training Academy, Internal Affairs Unit, Media Relations Unit, Organized Crime Section and Personnel Unit. Before his promotion to chief in 2016, Cardounel served as deputy chief for the Investigative Bureau and a member of the chief’s executive staff.

As chief, Cardounel oversees an agency responsible for providing law enforcement for Henrico’s more than 331,000 residents and a community covering 244 square miles. The division has a staff of 863 sworn and unsworn personnel and a budget of $81 million for fiscal 2019-20. Cardounel is the 16th individual to serve as Henrico police chief since 1915.

He is a graduate of Douglas S. Freeman High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Richmond and a master’s degree in public administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Henrico plans to conduct a national search for its next police chief and expects an appointment by Sept. 1.

“What this County has done for me over my career is immeasurable,” Cardounel said. “I only hope that I have been able to give something back and that in some small way I have helped move us forward. What my HCPD family has done for me I can never repay.”

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