Police: Brick thrown through window not hate crime
Incident is linked to an undercurrent of racism that city leaders have yet to address in East Austin, NAACP leader says.
By Juana Summers AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Saturday, July 25, 2009
Early Friday morning, Barbara Frische said she woke up to the sound of glass breaking inside her East Austin home.
She called police but didn't learn what had shattered the double-paned window in her 4-year-old son's room until after police arrived. Officers showed her a brick with a note attached: "Keep Eastside Black. Keep Eastside Strong."
"It's the first time anything like this has ever happened to me," said Frische, who is white. She has lived in her house on 13th Street for about 10 years.
The incident doesn't fall under the hate crime category, which is a classification of a charge but not a charge itself, said Austin police Sgt. Richard Stresing. He said the charge probably would be criminal mischief and deadly conduct, both misdemeanors.
Crimes based on race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability or gender are flagged as hate crimes, Stresing said, so they can be referred to the Department of Justice. The note attached to the brick didn't include hate speech, he said.
Frische was featured in a Statesman Watch article in May in which she lobbied for action to be taken on a charred house that neighbors said had been a gathering place for drug dealers, prostitutes and squatters.
Frische said she received no negative feedback from area residents after the article ran and said she does not think this incident is connected to the article.
Nelson Linder, president of the Austin chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said incidents such as the one that happened to Frische are rare.
"Throwing a brick into somebody's home, that's a crime," Linder said. "It's a criminal act, and that's how it should be addressed."
Linder said this incident is linked to an undercurrent of racism that city leaders have yet to address in East Austin.
African American and Latino residents had been in the majority since the 1920s and '30s — a trend that is starting to change. Now, some of their descendants are selling their properties to a new wave of affluent investors and would-be residents. Property taxes have doubled, tripled or more since 2000, according to Travis Central Appraisal District records.
"I think it's a very sensitive time for a lot of people," Linder said. "Certainly as African Americans we're under a lot of pressure, but that's not an excuse."
Austin police reported five hate crime incidents in 2007, down from 13 in 2006, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report. Two were based on race, two were based on ethnicity, and one was based on sexual orientation.
The state reported a total of 242 hate crime incidents in 2007, the most recent year for which statistics were available.
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