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Forum on Understanding Hate Crimes and Protecting Places of Worship

Manu Shah

On 6th April, Hindus of Larger Houston (HGH) hosted a first-of-its-kind Forum on “Understanding Hate Crimes and Protection of Places of Worship” for religion based mostly and group leaders to discover ways to forestall and respond to hate crimes towards locations 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 workplace, FBI Houston Area Office, Department of Homeland Safety and Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

About 40 faith based mostly organizationsattended the discussion board which was held on the Houston Durgabari Society. The event 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 Dialogue on Protecting Places of Worship by Interfaith leaders.

A mind baby of HGH Past President Partha Krishnaswamy, the forum sought to teach custodians, caretakers and members of temples, church buildings, synagogues, gurudwaras and mosques on tackling the uptick in hate crimes towards locations of worship.

Virtually all the presenters pointed out that expressing hate, identify calling and the show of offensive symbols, regardless of how vile, are usually not 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 felony act earlier than regulation enforcement businesses can take action.

Current attacks towards spiritual sites embrace the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh; Mother 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, both from the US Department of Justice have been instrumental in placing the program together.

Deputy Chief US Lawyer Workplace 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 the complete mosque and raged for hours ultimately burning down the mosque to the ground. It was emotionally devastating for its congregation but Khandelwal famous the outpouring of help from the group. A prayer vigil was attended not simply by Muslims however by other native communities with church buildings and synagogues providingtheir premises for worship until the mosque was rebuilt.

A squad of regulation enforcement businesses such as the ATF, FBI, Victoria Hearth and Police Division used “every single law enforcement method and technology 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 within the occasion of a hate crime, the Division of Justice won’t hesitate “to call it a hate crime and make sure justice is served.”

Bureau Chief-Special Crimes Harris County District Lawyer’s Workplace Ruben R. Perez who works for Harris County District Lawyer Kim Ogg also reiterated that their office was there to assist 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 one thing that was out of the odd, orcall CrimeStoppers with ideas and converse up if they discover an overt display ofhate speech towards a group or race on social media.

FBI Houston Supervisory Particular Agent Tricia Sibley beneficial two sites helpful 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 assaults towards racial and spiritual 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. Because of an increase in assaults on Hindu temples and individuals, the FBI began monitoring 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 tips on how 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 ought to be a welcoming expertise, some straightforward safety measures he instructed have been:

Invite local regulation enforcement personnel to your constructing during larger prayer providers or meetings.

Aside from the primary entry points, all other entry factors ought to be locked during providers.

Hearth alarmand sprinkler methods ought to be examined repeatedly

Ushers may be the first line of protection. They should be positioned on the primary access factors and educated to identify “something that doesn’t add up” reminiscent of nervous conduct, excess clothes or fixed adjusting of clothes.

Have ushers greet and speak to newcomers in the congregation

Install surveillance cameras in conspicuous and inconspicuous locations. The perception of surveillance might change someone’s conduct and assist regulation enforcers apprehend the perpetrator.

74% of lively shooters enter via the primary access point. If in case you have just one digital camera, install it on the most important access level.

Safety cameras should employ good lighting.

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

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

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

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

“See something, say something.” Call 911 in the event you spot suspicious conduct.

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

In case of an Lively capturing:

Within the wake of the 2012 capturing at the Sikh temple in Oak CreekWisconsin, Particular Agent Johnson famous a dangerous development in that the assaults are getting deadlier virtually “as if the shooters are trying to outdo the previous shooting.”

A research of 160 lively shooters within the US from 2000-2013 confirmed that 3.8% or 6 of them have been at locations 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 before the police arrived.

Some do’s and don’ts:

In case of an lively shooter, evacuees ought to depart all personal belongings behind.

Keep away from utilizing elevators and escalators to flee.

He beneficial viewing a movie on YouTube referred to as “Run. Hide. Fight. Surviving an Active shooter.”Throughout an lively capturing, the three primary response actions are Run, cover or battle. Individuals can run away from the shooter, search a safe place where they will disguise or incapacitate the shooter with improvised weapons akin to hearth extinguishers or chairs.When hiding, silence electronic units like cell phones, lock and barricade the door with heavy furnishings, turn off lights and remain silent.

Provide first responders with a website plan together with information about door and window places as well as locks and access controls.

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

Creating a robust relationship with the native commander is essential in serving to shield a place of worship.One also can text 911 now for emergencies whereas the non-emergency quantity is 713-884-3131.

Officer Martin strongly advised the need for a plan of motion, a plan of evacuation and a safety committee to create a safety plan.

A good idea 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 security protocols they make the most of to guard their place of worship.

Security is a high precedence for the BAPS Mandir. Ketan Thakker said that BAPS looked at safety via 2 views – IT and individuals perspective. Since they host a number of occasions a yr whichsometimes appeal to virtually eight thousand individuals, they take precautionary steps resembling installing several cameras which are monitored, invite regulation enforcement to temple occasions, have officers present but in the long run, he emphasised that “human vigilance is best.”

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

Different recommendations includedconducting hearth drills or workouts to make a fast departure from the area, “using proactive fellowship” to take a look at newcomers, monitoring social media for hate feeds, asking first time individuals to stand and be acknowledged, understanding the individuals in your quick vicinity and “finally educate and create awareness without creating panic.”

The Hindu American Foundation, a non-profit advocacy group based mostly in Washington D.C., has been actively working for years with the Division of Justice, regulation enforcement, and legislators across the country to trace and handle bias motivated attacks on Hindus and different spiritual and ethnic minorities. HAF also requests help in monitoring incidents of identity-based or bias-motivated intimidation, threats, harassment, and violence being experienced in our communities by filling out the Bias-Motivated Crime Knowledge Assortment Type, if they or somebody 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 facilities which are in danger for hate crimes.Organizations can apply athttps://www.fema.gov/nonprofit-security-grant-program.

Different assets:

Division of Justice’s Group Relations Service (CRS) Go to justice.gov/crs

Find your regional FBI office at fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices

Study concerning the FBI’s hate crime reporting process and statistics at fbi.gov/examine/civil-rights/hate-crimes

Find hate crime knowledge assortment tips and a coaching guide at ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime-data-collection-guidelines-and-training-manual.pdf

Protector Security Advisor Program (PSA) provide voluntary security surveys and assessments of amenities. Go to dhs.gov/sites/default/information/publications/PSA-Program-Reality-Sheet-05-15-508.pdf.

Federal Emergency Administration Agency: www.fema.gov/protecting-houses-worship

Source: World Hindu News (WHN)