After three African-American Miami University female students were verbally harassed when leaving an uptown restaurant, city officials are reviewing the occurrence of hate crimes in Oxford.
The harassment, which occurred Sept. 16, involved a Caucasian male who reportedly followed the three females down the street, repeatedly calling them insulting names based on their gender and ethnicity. “This is a white person’s street!” the male reportedly said. “Don’t you know this is a white person’s town?”
The females reported the incident to Miami Dean of Students Susan Mosley-Howard the next day.
According to Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott, the city was only recently made aware of the incident and the Community Relations Commission (CRC) is reviewing the report. The CRC is also working closely with university officials to coordinate a plan of response to these types of issues, Elliott said.
“We’re working with them to find out ways that we can prevent similar instances of hatred and intolerance in our community,” Elliott said.
Most importantly, Elliott said the city is trying to encourage students who experience similar threats to call 911 immediately rather than waiting to report them.
“If you feel threatened in any way, call,” Elliott said. “We certainly don’t want things to result in a physical assault.”
While there haven’t been any definite programs put in place yet, Elliott said the necessary actions will be taken to prevent future hate crimes.
“It’s more of an educational process,” Elliott said.
Oxford Police Department Sgt. Jim Squance said officers are trained in dealing with hate crimes and diversity issues and it is a topic they constantly revisit.
“We’re constantly updating our training,” Squance said. “One of the things our training includes is diversity … It’s a never-ending process when it comes to police work.”
An incident that occurred in April 2010 that involved an attack on a gay student uptown is also being considered in this process, Elliott said.
According to Elliott, the CRC has been meeting for two years and has been considering similar issues for some time. Elliott said he was unaware, however, if hate-stemmed crimes have been a problem in Oxford in the past.
“Unless it’s brought to our attention, we wouldn’t know,” he said.