Reports of hate and bias incidents in Maryland sky rocketed in 2016 to 285 compared 203 incidents in 2015, according to the State of Maryland 2016 Hate/Bias Report authored by the Maryland State Police. There were 155 reported incidents in 2014.

Of the 285 incidents in 2016, 114 occurred during the last quarter of the year. Of that period, November was the busiest month, with 50 incidents. Several incidents made reference to President Donald J. Trump. In one, a sign, advertising Spanish language services at a Silver Spring, Md. church, was slashed. The words: “Trump nation Whites only,” was written on back.

Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins was stabbed to death on May 20, three days before he was to receive his Bachelor’s Degree from Bowie State University. A White man has been indicted on hate crime charges surrounding his death. (Courtesy Photo)

The most active counties in Maryland were Baltimore with reports rising by 50 percent and Montgomery County with an 83 percent jump in reported incidents, but Prince George’s County was among eight counties that saw a decrease.

The overwhelming majority of instances involved race, with Blacks targeted most often, nearly half of the time, according to the report. Anti-Jewish incidents accounted for the second largest category, (18.6 percent). The third busiest group involved gender bias crimes at just under 12 percent.

Following an investigation, the incidents were classified as either verified, inconclusive, meaning the evidence is incomplete, or unfounded, which means the event was motivated by reasons other than hate.

Of the 285 incident reported in 2016, only 93 were verified. State police said 179 lacked sufficient evidence to move forward and 13 were unfounded.

Data for the report was from the Maryland Supplemental Hate Bias Incident Report. All Maryland law enforcement agencies are required to complete it.  Some of the departments have expressed concerns that the numbers may continue to rise and the acts become more severe.

In April, a noose was found dangling Inside the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house on the campus of the University of Maryland in College Park. And just last week a Prince George’s grand jury indicted 22 year old Sean Urbanski on hate crime charges for the May 2017 stabbing death of 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III as he waited at a bus stop on the University of Maryland campus.

At a news conference following the indictment, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said Collins, a recently commissioned Army officer, and soon to be Bowie State graduate was “killed because of his race.”

During a conference in New York last week, former President George W. Bush told listeners that in our current political climate, “bigotry seems emboldened.”

In 33 of the incidents in 2016, some type of weapon was used, ranging from a firearm to fists. Most cases did not result in injury. Cars, homes and places of worship were also targeted by vandals with damages totaling $33,000. There were also nine arrests.

The report urges the state’s law enforcement and human relations agencies to be vigilant in monitoring biased-related problems in their communities. Citizens are also being called on as well to be proactive in reporting incidents so that a clearer picture can be developed.