Two weeks after property in East Arlington was tagged with racially derogatory graffiti, the Arlington Police Department is changing the way it treats hate and bias-related crimes and incidents.
Police Chief Will Johnson said in a press conference Thursday morning that the new policy will allow the department to document and analyze hate-related incidents, even when those incidents lead to relatively minor criminal charges.
The new policy will also see the department take on various goals to effectively deal with hate and bias-related incidents, according to a police department action agenda. The department will look to increase proactive community engagement, data collection and collaboration with civil rights organizations.
Arlington resident Edward Daniel Gutierrez was arrested Aug. 29 for spray painting racial slurs and swastikas on property near East Arkansas Lane and New York Avenue. Although Johnson identified the crime as hate-based, Gutierrez was charged with graffiti. The charge consisted of a pecuniary loss between $750 and $2,500, a class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $4,000 or both.
Johnson said the new policy is important because a hate incident may not rise to the level of criminality, or the criminal charge may not match the negative impact the crime has on the community. He said a lack of documentation and proactivity could allow hate crimes to escalate.
“Acts of violence in the community don’t just happen overnight,” Johnson said. “Many times there’s an escalation of rhetoric, there’s an escalation of acts where an individual or group may transition from hate incidents to a hate crime. This will give us the ability to understand in our community what the frequency or volume of those hate incidents might be.”
He said the new policy will help show victims that police care and want to treat the severity of the incident.
“We care about all people,” Johnson said. “We care about their protection. We care about their safety and their neighborhood. We care that their kids are safe and free to walk to school just like any other children, and we believe that this helps send that message, and we believe it helps set the culture of this community.”