A week ago on Sunday adult male Darfurian refugees living in Anchorage, Alaska awoke to find malicious messages painted on two of their cars and the car tires deflated. A refugee speaking for the men said he was frightened, and not surprisingly so with these refugees’ experiences back in Darfur where their “villages were regularly burned, people slaughtered and wells poisoned”, according to Debbie Bock, a longtime volunteer with Anchorage’s Darfurian community. “If someone told you to ‘get out,’ that would be a threat of death, she said. Police dispatch refused to respond to the scene, claiming that police would first need to know who the suspect was. Parts of the wider community came forward to help the refugee men and a heated debate has grown about what some say was a failure by police to investigate. By Sunday evening police claim they did come out after a call from a neighbor who said they thought they had possible suspect information in the case. This was also after the case had already gained media attention. An article at KTVA explains the story:
A group of Sudanese refugees whose cars were vandalized on Sunday are receiving outpouring support from members of the Anchorage community.
A GoFundMe page set up to help the men has raised more than $1,600 in two days. Catholic Social Services has also reached out to the group. The organization says it is working with the men to put the donation money they’ve received towards finding housing outside of the Spenard area.
Mohammed Hano and his four roommates woke up Sunday morning to find offensive messages written on the two cars outside of their homes on the 3400 block of Dorbrandt Street. The tires on both vehicles were also deflated. Hano says he felt threatened.
“I woke up to the saying “Go out,’” he said. “If I don’t go, that means I’m going to get hurt. I was scared about it.”
He called the Anchorage Police Department, but the dispatcher told him they wouldn’t send an officer unless they had a suspect…
Hano says he still feels uneasy not knowing who wrote the hateful messages or why, but he is grateful for the help and support from the community. He added that APD Captain Koch called him on Tuesday to apologize for not having sent an officer to visit the residence when he called on Sunday.
APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro says the department realized its misstep on Tuesday, after receiving a considerable amount of reaction from the public.
“What would have been valuable in this case is sending an officer to the complainant’s place to sit down and talk with him and explain directly, in person, the process, what happens, what could happen next, what we need, what we’re looking for,” said Castro. “That engagement would have been helpful in at least alleviating this person’s fears and frustrations about what this person experienced and what happened to them.”… Read more here
and from the Alaska Dispatch News:
On Tuesday, Mohammed Hano got the phone call he’d been waiting for.
Hano was standing in the kitchen of the Spenard apartment he has shared for years with other refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. It’s a place he is now planning to leave after, he says, he and his roommate, also a Sudanese refugee, awoke Sunday to find messages like “Leave Alaska,” “Get Out” and “Go Now” written all over their cars and the tires deflated.
The caller was Dave Koch, a captain with the Anchorage Police Department…
[the incident has] touched off a heated a debate over the Anchorage Police Department’s response to the men. They say they called police in fear Sunday but were refused a visit from an officer. The men said they felt their concern — that they had been the targets of a hate crime — was dismissed. Initially, a police spokeswoman said there was “no evidence” of a hate crime and the case would be investigated simply as vandalism, a low priority for a busy department.
By Tuesday, that line of reasoning had changed.
The police captain was calling, in part, to acknowledge things had gone wrong.
“My name is Dave,” Koch told Hano… “When you called, the dispatch supervisor should have sent you an officer. That just should have happened. If you’re expressing you were in fear or uncomfortable, she should have sent you an officer.”…
Police say they may have erred by not sending someone out right away, but after that, they have followed up robustly, they said, sending officers to knock on doors to try to identify a suspect…
Hano said when he initially called police, they were interested in the amount of damage done to the cars (none that was permanent) rather than what he found disturbing: the words themselves, which he says he saw as serious threats.
“I’m asking, please come and see the situation — it’s not about vandalism or damages. I have a message saying ‘Go and move out,’ ” Hano said. “This one I can’t handle for myself.”…
Police records show that officers first visited the apartment complex Sunday night, after a call from a neighbor who said they thought they had possible suspect information in the case, according to [police spokesperson] Castro.
By then, the case had already attracted the attention of media…
Back on the phone call, Koch explained that legally speaking, evidence of a hate crime rested on the ability to prove a motive. And without a suspect, that would be difficult.
Hating someone isn’t itself a crime, according to City Attorney Dennis Wheeler, but a judge can use a crime motivated by bias against a specific group of people as an aggravator to impose a harsher sentence.
Bottom line, Koch said, “unless you know who committed the crime you can’t do anything with it.”
Hano said he didn’t understand how there could be a question about the motive. Even if the words didn’t seem to constitute a crime of hate, didn’t the message to leave?… Read more here