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Forum on Understanding Hate Crimes and Protecting Places of Worship

Forum on Understanding Hate Crimes and Protecting Places of Worship

Manu Shah

On sixth April, Hindus of Larger Houston (HGH) hosted a first-of-its-kind Forum on “Understanding Hate Crimes and Protection of Locations of Worship” for religion based mostly and group leaders to discover ways to forestall and respond to hate crimes towards places of worship. Facilitated by america Department of Justice Group Relations Providers (CRS), it heldpresentations by representatives from the US Lawyer’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, Harris County District Lawyer’s office, FBI Houston Subject Office, Department of Homeland Security and Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

About 40 religion based mostly organizationsattended the discussion board which was held at the Houston Durgabari Society. The occasion touched on 4 points: Hate Crimes Prosecutions Overview, Hate Crimes Statistics and Symbols of Hate, Stopping and Responding to Lively Shooter Conditions and a Panel Discussion on Defending Locations of Worship by Interfaith leaders.

A brain youngster of HGH Past President Partha Krishnaswamy, the discussion board sought to teach custodians, caretakers and members of temples, churches, synagogues, gurudwaras and mosques on tackling the uptick in hate crimes towards locations of worship.

Virtually all the presenters identified that expressing hate, identify calling and the show of offensive symbols, regardless of how vile, will not be in-and-of-themselves legal. The Constitution is sure to guard the rights of even those who bask in hate speech. It has to rise to the extent of a legal act earlier than regulation enforcement businesses can take motion.

Current attacks towards spiritual websites embrace the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; Mom Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, S.C.; Victoria Islamic Middle, Victoria, Texas, the Oak Creek, Wis., Sikh temple; and the Overland Park Jewish Middle in Kansas.

Moderator Harpreet Singh Mocha and Kim Milstead, each from the US Department of Justice have been instrumental in putting this system together.

Deputy Chief US Lawyer Office of Southern District of Texas, Sharad Khandelwal kicked off this system by highlighting the January 28th 2017 assault on the Victoria Islamic Middle, a mosque about 80 miles in Victoria, Texas. Residents across the middle woke up to a fireplace that engulfed your complete mosque and raged for hours ultimately burning down the mosque to the bottom. It was emotionally devastating for its congregation but Khandelwal noted the outpouring of help from the group. A prayer vigil was attended not simply by Muslims but by other local communities with church buildings and synagogues providingtheir premises for worship till the mosque was rebuilt.

A squad of regulation enforcement businesses such as the ATF, FBI, Victoria Hearth and Police Department used “each single regulation enforcement technique and know-how to crack the case.” The perpetrator was charged with a hate crime that obtained him 24 years of prison time.This was the repeated assurance provided by Khandelwal that in the occasion of a hate crime, the Department of Justice won’t hesitate “to name it a hate crime and make sure justice is served.”

Bureau Chief-Special Crimes Harris County District Lawyer’s Office Ruben R. Perez who works for Harris County District Lawyer Kim Ogg also reiterated that their office was there to help and shield individuals and would prosecute all instances of arson, graffiti, theft, vandalism and aggravated assault on a place of worship. He inspired the gathering to dial 911 as a first responder in the event that they saw something that was out of the peculiar, orcall CrimeStoppers with ideas and converse up if they discover an overt show ofhate speech towards a group or race on social media.

FBI Houston Supervisory Particular Agent Tricia Sibley advisable two websites useful in understanding hate crimes, hate symbols and their incidence – Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program FBI and StopHoustonGangs. In a current report, Federal Bureau of Investigation logged 7,175 hate crimes in 2017, a 17% improve from the prior yr that was brought on by growing attacks towards racial and non secular minorities. The number represented the third consecutive yr that hate crimes went up and the most important year-by-year improve in hate crimes since 2001. As a result of an increase in attacks on Hindu temples and people, the FBI started tracking hate crimes towards Hindus since 2013.

FBI Houston Supervisory Special Agent Chris Johnson provided some broad basedguidelines and assets on securing locations of worship and easy methods to survive an lively shooter. Since 2014, 1016 hate crimes motivated by spiritual bias have been reported and occurred at church buildings, temples, mosques, gurudwaras and synagogues.

Whereas getting into to a spot of worship must be a welcoming expertise, some straightforward security measures he advised have been:

Invite native regulation enforcement personnel to your building during larger prayer providers or conferences.

Aside from the primary entry points, all different entry factors ought to be locked throughout providers.

Hearth alarmand sprinkler techniques must be examined recurrently

Ushers might be the first line of defense. They should be positioned at the most important access factors and educated to identify “something that doesn’t add up” reminiscent of nervous conduct, extra clothing or constant adjusting of clothing.

Have ushers greet and speak to newcomers within the congregation

Install surveillance cameras in conspicuous and inconspicuous places. The notion of surveillance might change someone’s conduct and help regulation enforcers apprehend the perpetrator.

74% of lively shooters enter by means of the primary entry level. If in case you have only one digital camera, set up it at the essential entry point.

Safety cameras ought to make use of good lighting.

In case of a suspicious item, don’t contact or tamper with it. Dial 911 instantly.

In case of a menace by telephone, do not grasp up. If potential document the dialog, ask questions and write down the precise wording of the menace.

In case of a suspicious individual, word down license plates, write down descriptions of what the individual seemed like and what they did. Such proof is important for regulation enforcement to research and prosecute if crucial.

A case of vandalism, regardless of how minor, have to be reported. Comply with up with the suitable officer repeatedly on the progress of the case.

“See something, say something.” Call 911 when you spot suspicious conduct.

Develop a plan and educate members of the congregation on the plan

In case of an Lively capturing:

In the wake of the 2012 capturing on the Sikh temple in Oak CreekWisconsin, Particular Agent Johnson noted a dangerous development in that the assaults are getting deadlier virtually “as if the shooters try to outdo the previous capturing.”

A research of 160 lively shooters within the US from 2000-2013 confirmed that 3.eight% or 6 of them have been at places of worship. 69% of the 160 incidents led to 5 minutes or much less. Regulation enforcement response time was 3 minutes and 67% of the incidents ended earlier than the police arrived.

Some do’s and don’ts:

In case of an lively shooter, evacuees should depart all private belongings behind.

Keep away from using elevators and escalators to escape.

He really helpful viewing a film on YouTube referred to as “Run. Cover. Struggle. Surviving an Lively shooter.”Throughout an lively capturing, the three primary response actions are Run, disguise or battle. Individuals can run away from the shooter, seek a secure place the place they will cover or incapacitate the shooter with improvised weapons reminiscent of hearth extinguishers or chairs.When hiding, silence electronic units like cell telephones, lock and barricade the door with heavy furnishings, flip off lights and stay silent.

Present first responders with a website plan including information about door and window places as well as locks and entry controls.

Commander Legal Intelligence Division Houston Police Division M.WyattMartin clarified that the typical response time after a 911 call is 5 minutes. He additionally inspired the gathering to call Stephen Daniel at 713-308-3246 for a website safety evaluation and coaching in find out how to shield the place of worship.

Creating a robust relationship with the local commander is essential in serving to shield a spot of worship.One also can textual content 911 now for emergencies while the non-emergency number is 713-884-3131.

Officer Martin strongly instructed the necessity for a plan of action, a plan of evacuation and a security committee to create a security plan.

A good suggestion when getting into a public place, he cautioned, is tocheck out the exits on the property.

In a concluding panel dialogue, representatives from Interfaith ministries – Rev. Gregory Han – IMG Interfaith, Dr. Zahra Jamal – Rice University, Jason Plotkin from the Synagogue, KedarThakker – BAPS Mandir and Morris Grunill from the Fort Bend Church shared the safety protocols they utilize to protect their place of worship. 


Safety is a excessive priority for the BAPS Mandir. Ketan Thakker said that BAPS checked out safety by means of 2 perspectives – IT and other people perspective. Since they host several events a yr whichsometimes appeal to virtually eight thousand individuals, they take precautionary steps comparable to installing several cameras which might be monitored, invite regulation enforcement to temple occasions, have officers current but in the long run, he emphasised that “human vigilance is greatest.”

The Fort Bend Church has a rigorously thought out multilayered system of safety. Membersare first greeted by parking zone attendants, then greeters and ushers. Security Officers are present on campus. In the course of the week just one entrance is used besides Sundays when all 6 entrances are used. An inhouse security committee meets every year to assessment and revise safety measures.

Other options includedconducting hearth drills or workouts to make a quick departure from the area, “using proactive fellowship” to take a look at newcomers, monitoring social media for hate feeds, asking first time individuals to face and be acknowledged, understanding the individuals in your speedy neighborhood and “finally educate and create consciousness without creating panic.”

The Hindu American Basis, a non-profit advocacy group based mostly in Washington D.C., has been actively working for years with the Department of Justice, regulation enforcement, and legislators throughout the country to trace and tackle bias motivated attacks on Hindus and different spiritual and ethnic minorities. HAF additionally requests help in tracking incidents of identity-based or bias-motivated intimidation, threats, harassment, and violence being skilled in our communities by filling out the Bias-Motivated Crime Knowledge Assortment Type, in the event that they or someone they know has experienced or witnessed an incident.Contact HAF for help at [email protected] or 201-223-8222.

FEMA had a grant program of $150,000 to reinforce the safety of spiritual centers which might be in danger for hate crimes.Organizations can apply at

 Other assets:

Department of Justice’s Group Relations Service (CRS) Visit

Find your regional FBI workplace at

Study concerning the FBI’s hate crime reporting course of and statistics at

Discover hate crime knowledge collection tips and a coaching guide at

Protector Security Advisor Program (PSA) provide voluntary safety surveys and assessments of amenities. Go to

Federal Emergency Administration Company:

Supply: World Hindu Information (WHN)