The San Luis Obispo Police Department has documented six hate crimes in the last two years, a finding it presented at a community meeting hosted by Women's March San Luis Obispo on June 19.
"I think what we found in analyzing this, and why we're here today, is because it starts with the community and educating each other in how to report it and then making that step to make the report about what is happening," SLO Police Department detective Suzie Walsh said.
The Police Department established Police and Community Together (PACT) in 2017 with a goal of strengthening the department's relationship with the community to effectively keep it safe. As part of this effort, the department also started documenting hate crimes and hate expression the same year.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 2017 nearly 16,000 law enforcement agencies participated in the Hate Crime Statistics Program. Of these agencies, about 2,000 reported 7,175 hate crimes incidents. An analysis of those incidences revealed that 58 percent were motivated by race, 22 percent were prompted by religion, about 16 percent resulted from sexual-orientation bias, 2 percent were by disability bias, and 1 percent were motivated by gender.
Walsh said that in 2017, the SLO police department had five hate crime cases and, in 2018 they had one—four of those cases were crimes against people and two were against property. One of those incidents, Walsh said, was a male who called dispatch, slurred at the dispatch officer, and gave anti-female ideations.
"He also threatened to kill one of the dispatchers because she was a woman. Not a good idea, it's a recorded line, and the evidence is right there," she said. "We filed charges to the [SLO County District Attorney's Office]."
In another case, a Hispanic woman reported a large swastika spray-painted on the heating cabinet of her garage with a dead rat under it. Walsh said there wasn't any surveillance, witnesses, or leads to go on, but the department took the report and put extra patrol officers in the area.
The department is also monitoring hate expression to analyze trends related to hate crime, prevent hate crime through education and intervention, and document incidents of hate expression for future related cases.
Walsh said one example of hate expression is threatening letters that the city's local mosque received from an individual who was already in custody at Atascadero State Hospital (ASH). The individual isn't going to be released from ASH, but she said the police documented the incident just in case.
If the residents from different areas of the county want their local law enforcement agency to start documenting hate crime and hate expression, Walsh said, she suggests they reach out and ask for the service.
Gregory Howard, a Nipomo resident who attended the meeting, said he's going to contact his local law enforcement agency because he wants to have that connection with the department.
"I want to become more informed and find out ways that we can combat [hate crime] via reporting and also spreading the word of inclusion and acceptance rather than separation," Howard said. "Because we're all better Americans." Δ