Connect with us

Crime

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.

Capital News Service

Published

on

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

Comments

comments

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.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Crime

ACLU urges release of some nonviolent offenders to combat coronavirus spread

As the coronavirus begins to hit correctional facilities, groups are calling for the release of nonviolent inmates to help prevent outbreaks. 

Capital News Service

Published

on

By Rodney Robinson

As the coronavirus hits correctional facilities, the ACLU is calling for the release of some nonviolent inmates to help prevent outbreaks and keep residents and staff safe.

The Virginia ACLU submitted a letter to the governor, along with the executive guidance document. The document focuses on reducing the overall populations in local and state custodial facilities, including reducing the intake of people. The organization called for an immediate release of all people identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as at-risk for COVID-19, such as older people and people with underlying health conditions, whose sentences would end in the next two years. The ACLU also wants the governor to begin a process of immediate release for anyone whose sentence would end in the next year, anyway.

There are a limited number of eligible parole cases that can be reviewed for early release, according to Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran, who said at a press conference Monday that an expeditious review is “still ongoing.”

“There are a number of challenges because by the code we have no parole in the commonwealth of Virginia,” Moran said. “It is limited to geriatric release and limited to those who are sentenced before 1996.”

Moran said the parole board has withdrawn warrants on technical violations for a number of individuals and has expedited release of parole for those already paroled, in effort to eliminate interaction between the parole supervisor and the individual.

 Three inmates at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections. One inmate at the Central Virginia Correctional Unit 13 for women has tested positive for COVID-19, according to VADOC. Four VADOC employees and one contractor have also tested positive for the virus. As of April 3, the Virginia Department of Health reports 2,012 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 46 deaths. From March 27 to April 3, 1,552 cases were confirmed, or 77% of all cases since the state’s first case was reported on March 7.

 “We need strong leadership that will move us more quickly toward a criminal legal system that is safe for everyone,” ACLU Executive Director Claire Gastañaga said in a press release. “To do this, we must jettison the ‘tough on crime’ hyperbole and recognize this pandemic as an opportunity to rethink the way we choose to use the criminal legal system to address issues of poverty, income inequality and addiction.”

Almost two weeks ago the governor announced measures to battle the coronavirus outbreak among residents and staff, such as modifying sentences, diverting offenders from serving jail terms, utilizing home electronic monitoring and reducing low-risk individuals being held without bail.

Elliott B. Bender, founder of Bender Law Group in Richmond and president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said that the governor’s measures are great in theory “for the safety of all of us.” However, he is concerned that they are not being implemented consistently and completely. Consistency and getting all branches of government on the same page are important in this process, according to Bender.

Moran said state code mandates the victims involved need to be notified of a prisoner’s potential early release.

“And you have to provide victims time to weigh in on the decision,” Moran said. “And that is an ongoing process as well.”

To combat the virus, visitation and volunteer activities remain closed at correctional facilities, according to the VADOC. People entering VADOC correctional facilities will be screened using thermometers. In addition, the department ordered 112,000 additional bars of soap. Virginia Correctional Enterprises, which employs incarcerated people to produce a variety of goods, is now manufacturing about 30,000 sneeze and cough guard masks per day for inmates and staff, according to VADOC. All employees must assess their risk on a daily basis prior to work.

 Also, there are measures taken to ensure safety once a person leaves a VADOC facility. All inmates leaving a correctional facility are screened for COVID-19 on the day of their release, according to  VADOC.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Crime

Richmond Police seek missing Northside woman last seen in Washington, D.C.

Candis H. Bellah, 32, is missing from the 3800 block of Chamberlayne Avenue. Bellah was last seen in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 16 and was expected to return to Richmond on that same day but has not been seen.

Avatar

Published

on

From Richmond Police:

The Richmond Police Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a missing person.

Candis H. Bellah, 32, is missing from the 3800 block of Chamberlayne Avenue. Bellah was last seen in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 16 and was expected to return to Richmond on that same day but has not been seen.

Anyone with information on Bellah is asked to call Detective A. Darnell at (804) 363-0878 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Crime

VIDEO: Richmond Police seek suspect in St. Patrick’s Day burglary at VCU area vape shop

WATCH: The suspect can be seen on surveillance footage tucking and rolling through the glass of Kulture’s front door before smashing and grabbing merchandise.

RVAHub Staff

Published

on

Richmond Police detectives are asking for the public’s help to identify the suspect in a commercial burglary that occurred on St. Patrick’s Day at Kulture, a vape shop near VCU’s Monroe Park Campus.

At approximately 6:10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, officers responded to a business in the 1200 block of West Cary Street for the report of a commercial burglary. When officers arrived, a witness stated she heard glass breaking from the business next door.

Video surveillance shows a man jump headfirst into the glass door of the business. He’s then seen smashing a cabinet and reportedly stole thousands of dollars of merchandise.

The suspect was last seen wearing a red hooded sweatshirt, black pants, and a black backpack.

Anyone with information about the identity of this suspect is asked to call Third Precinct Detective R. Bailey at (804) 646-3192 or contact Crime Stoppers at (804) 780-1000 or at www.7801000.com. The P3 Tips Crime Stoppers app for smartphones may also be used. All Crime Stoppers methods are anonymous.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Richmond Weather

Events Calendar