By Miriam Raftery
Photo courtesy of the District Attorney’s office
August 20, 2017 (San Diego) – “What we saw in Charlottesville is a bunch of thugs, bullies and criminals masquerading behind the freedom of speech,” said newly appointed San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan in a statement issued today, referring to white supremacists who rallied in Virginia, a gathering that included Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members armed with guns, chemicals, and other weapons.
Stephan also vowed to make prosecution of hate crimes a priority locally and noted that such crimes are on the rise.
“I wish we could say that the hateful words and murderous actions in Charlottesville are a fluke or aberration, but we can't and we shouldn't view it as if we are at a safe distance in San Diego,” she revealed. “The latest statistics from the California Department of Justice show an 11 percent increase in hate crimes in San Diego County.”
Stephan added, “Fighting hate crimes is a priority for me and the District Attorney team, just as they are a priority to our law enforcement partners. We have a team of experts who prosecute hate crimes and who understand the impact on victims. Whenever hateful words or motives are combined with criminal actions, this office will prosecute to the fullest extent allowable by the law. We will not stand by and allow anyone to suffer abuse because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or for any other reason.”
She urged the public to report suspected hate crimes if you witness one.
Hate crimes are defined by law as crimes that are committed against individuals or groups or property based on the real or perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, or ethnicity of the victims.
The San Diego District Attorney’s office has a Hate Crimes Unit within its Special Operations Division.
Victims of hate crimes suffer fear, stress, and may be afraid of reprisal or escalation of violence.
If you are a victim of a hate crime, the D.A.’s Hate Crimes webpage offers this advice:
- Call 911 or go to a hospital immediately.
- Seek medical treatment even if you suffered only minor injuries.
- Report the crime whether or not you are injured.
- Take photos of physical injuries or damage to property, even if police already did so. But if vandalism occurred, let police see and photograph the scene before you clean up or repair the damage.
- If possible, get witnesses’ names, addresses and phone numbers.
- Write down as many facts as you can remember about the crime.
- Get names of police officers and prosecutors working on your case, and keep in touch with them.
- Get copies of police reports and check them for accuracy.
- Attend court hearings whether you are subpoenaed or not, including arraignment, bail review and sentencing.
- If possible, make a statement in court to the judge about threats, direct or indirect, and any fears.