- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2007

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is trying to draw more attention to hate crimes in Charles County by asking the director of the FBI to investigate.

“I am extremely troubled by this rash of hate crimes in my own home state,” Miss Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, said yesterday. “Families deserve to know their neighborhoods are safe and free from intolerance and discrimination.”

Miss Mikulski sent a letter to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III on March 30 with a list of 25 hate crimes reported in the county from Feb. 5, 2005, to Sept. 10, 2006.

In 10 of the crimes listed, the letters “KKK” were spray-painted on buildings, vehicles or roads, and nearly all included racial slurs.

Mikulski spokeswoman Melissa Schwartz said Mr. Mueller has not responded to the letter.

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office has a hate crimes task force that includes Charles County officials and FBI agents.

Miss Schwartz said the senator is aware that the task force includes federal agents but thinks the gravity of the situation warrants Mr. Mueller’s attention.

The sheriff’s department reported that at least 10 teenagers have been arrested since last month and accused of committing hate crimes.

Hate crimes in the county made national news in 2004 when 35 homes under construction in an upscale development were hit by arson.

An investigation found that five white men, Maryland residents in their 20s, participated because they realized that many of the homes were purchased by blacks.

All of the men were sentenced to prison in connection with the arson.

Janice Wilson, acting president of the Charles County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, suggested that the crimes represented a shift in county demographics, partly because of an influx of black professionals.

According to Census Bureau data for 2000, Charles County had a population of about 121,000, 68 percent of whom were white and 26 percent of whom were black. In 2005, the population had increased to 140,000, and 59 percent of residents were white and 34 percent were black.

Miss Wilson suspects the involvement of juveniles in the hate crimes is the result of “old-fashioned” values passed down by parents.

“They pass negative stereotypes on to their children,” she said. “They’re children; where else would they get it?”

Miss Wilson said the sheriff’s department and school officials have cooperated with the NAACP to increase awareness about the crimes.

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