People in Albany, LaVette Ervin heard, were nice. There's no racism here, they told her.
On Monday she arrived at the 1800 block of Clay Street to see her mother and found the N word and swastikas spray-painted on the vehicles closest to the apartment her mother and sister share.
"I want people to know racism is here," she said.
At least three vehicles were tagged in the apartment complex's parking lot — two cars closest to the Ervin family's apartment and a third car belonging to a gay man. The Ervin family is Black.
"It certainly is very ugly," said Albany Police Chief Marcia Harnden. "For some reason, people think we said this isn't a hate crime. It's absolutely a hate crime. It doesn't matter who the owner of the vehicle is. If you cause damage with the intent to intimidate, it's a hate crime."
Harnden said the department will be proceeding under Oregon Revised Statute 166.155, which states that a person can be charged with a bias crime if they "intentionally, because of the person’s perception of race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin of another person or of a member of the other person’s family, subjects the other person to alarm by threatening: To cause substantial damage to the property of the other person or of a member of the other person’s family."
A person can also be charged with a hate crime if they tamper or interfere with property, having no right or reasonable grounds to do so, with the intention of causing inconvenience to someone else based on their protected class status.
According to Harnden, APD will be proceeding with the understanding that tagging the vehicles constitutes "significant damage."
"This is ugly and disgusting, and we're going to treat it that way," Harnden said. "People seem emboldened now to say hateful things and commit hateful crimes, and it's important for law enforcement to take a stand."
APD is reviewing footage taken from a nearby apartment complex, though no suspect details have been released.
Harnden cautions residents of the complex and the surrounding area to be aware of their surroundings.
"Be watchful for people hanging around that don't appear to belong there," she said.
Ervin does not live in the complex, but she's concerned for her mother and sister.
"It makes me feel uneasy as a sister and a daughter just because I don't know the person's intent," she said. "I don't know if they're going to come back and do something else. You don't know what's in someone's head. What happened is not OK, and it needs to be talked about."
Harnden said neither family impacted has had previous issues at the complex.
"It was probably aimed more at the African American family, but we don't know that for sure," she said. "This isn't something we're going to tolerate within the city."
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