Charleston Police report 16 hate crimes since 2018; legislator says state needs to catch up

In September, members of the Greater Macedonia AME church on Savage Road discovered hateful, satanic graffiti scribbled on its doors.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:05 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 7:28 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - In September, members of the Greater Macedonia AME church on Savage Road discovered hateful, satanic graffiti scribbled on its doors.

During the investigation, police discovered that Essex Village Church of Christ across the street also had similar symbols on its building.

These are two of three crimes labelled as “hate intimidation” committed in Charleston in 2022. The Charleston Police Department reports a 15-year-old was behind the vandalism and the case is going through family court.

Four years ago the city made history, passing a hate crime ordinance that outlawed intimidation passed on race, gender, religious affiliation and more.

Since then, 16 crimes have been labeled as such.

Map from Charleston Police Department shows hate crime incidents from 2015-2022.
Map from Charleston Police Department shows hate crime incidents from 2015-2022.(Live 5)

“This is vile conduct that we want to criminalize not just that underlying act but the hate bias as well,” Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tod Williams said.

At least two other cities have also passed similar ordinances, including Yemasee and Greenville.

It’s unclear how many people have been convicted under the law in Charleston, but it’s not often they are seen in municipal court.

“We don’t see a ton of them because it’s really an add on for a municipal level offense. If someone commits a more serious offense in General Sessions, this wouldn’t be an appropriate charge to add to it,” Williams said.

That would most likely fall under state court, and South Carolina remains one of two states in the country to not successfully pass a measure addressing hate crime.

Wyoming is the other state.

“I always tell people 48 other states, they can’t be wrong,” Charleston representative Wendell Gilliard said.

Gilliard helped introduce a bill last year that would outlaw hate crimes. It passed in the House but stalled in the Senate.

Now, he’s getting ready to prefile the bill, with little to no language changes.

‘We’re human beings. We treat each other with respect and dignity. That’s what this country is all about. And that’s what we should be about and we should stand on those principles,” Gilliard said.

“Passing a state law would be a win for everybody from law enforcement to community members, to individuals who need these protections,” Deputy Chief Jack Weiss with the Charleston Police Department said.

Gilliard says if it became law, it would expedite the cases as opposed to the backlogs in the federal court system, encourage others to come forward and keep records of reported hate crimes.

It also would carry with it a felony sentence of up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

The city’s ordinance only applies if done in conjunction with another municipal crime and only comes with a max sentence of 30 days in jail and a fine.