In clarifying an incident of bias reported earlier this month, Montclair State University Police Department said that a swastika had been drawn on a desk in Dickson Hall on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
The University Detective Bureau along with the Bias Crime Unit of the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office determined the graffiti to be a “bias incident” rather than a crime of “bias intimidation.” The two are differentiated based on the intention of the culprit and are followed by differing police action and levels of consequences.
“A bias incident is not a crime, but many would consider [it] inappropriate. It would relate to items that are protected by free speech under the U.S. Constitution,” said Lt. Keiran Barrett of the University Police Department.
At this stage of the investigation, authorities do not know who drew the symbol or the intent of that person.Therefore, it was not labeled as a bias intimidation crime.
“We can obviously assume it was [made] to offend or cause fear, but that does necessarily indicate the crime [was of] bias intimidation,” said Barrett.
Crimes of bias intimidation often require the University Police Department to identify the offender through a thorough investigation, as well as file charges against the individual. In such cases, the Bias Response Task Force on campus also offers services to any victims affected by the bias crime.
“Many times it is found that these acts do not meet the level of the statute and are the acts of cowards that prefer to scrawl things in areas that people will see,” said Barrett.
After the incident was reported, an officer went to Dickson Hall to investigate and found the swastika, which, according to Barrett, looked like it had been there “for some time.” Housekeeping then cleaned the bias graffiti off the desk.