My Turn: I am humbled by the way our community responded
Concord Police Chief John Duval, standing with Lt. Tim O'Malley, speaks at a press conference at the Concord Police Department on Tuesday regarding the arrest of Raymond Stevens of Concord for a 2011 graffiti incident targeting refugee homes in South Concord. "We were looking for a needle in a haystack," said Duval, who said Stevens was arraigned at around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. WILL PARSON / Monitor staff
It has been just over two years since several of our newest citizens were targeted with hateful messages on the exterior of their homes. A place where there is an expectation of safety and security was defiled and written upon with disgusting, racist words simply because of the victims’ ethnicity and national origin. These crimes, rooted in prejudice and intolerance, captured the attention of the entire community and sadly reminded us that ignorance persists.
If the intent of these cowardly acts was to instill fear or intimidation or divide the community, then I am happy to say that the responsible individual has failed miserably and underestimated the resolve of the citizens of Concord to stand up and fight against hate.
The Concord Police Department received strong support from countless individuals at the onset of these despicable crimes. Law enforcement stood unified in ensuring that every effort would be made to identify and prosecute those responsible. The residents of Concord should know that my department received immediate support from U.S. Attorney John Kacavas, FBI Supervising Special Agent Kieran Ramsey, Merrimack County Attorney Scott Murray, former New Hampshire attorney general Michael Delaney and former governor John Lynch. The message from the very beginning was clear: All available law enforcement resources would be made available to solve these cases. Many months passed as the investigation progressed; however, the intensity and determination of the Concord police investigators never wavered.
During this same time frame, the community did not remain silent, nor did it allow the minority voice of a hateful individual go unanswered. There have been at least two “Love Your Neighbor” rallies in the city along with several other forums and events aimed at educating and strengthening the fabric of the community by promoting acceptance and positive communication.
Another example was the recently held Concord Multicultural Festival. In addition, there were many groups and individuals who championed a positive message moving forward. The Greater Concord Area Task Force Against Racism & Intolerance, New American Africans, Lutheran Social Services, the Concord High School “Be the Change” club and the Greater Concord Interfaith Council are representative of many who demonstrated leadership and courage. Moreover, business owners, property owners, Concord Regional Crimeline and other citizens in Concord committed thousands of dollars in reward money to assist in solving the case.
The lead detective assigned to this investigation left no stone unturned. Any crime committed against our citizens is unacceptable. Targeted crimes of hate because of ethnicity or national origin are particularly deplorable and intolerable. Perseverance and steadfast dedication triumphed. The recent arrest of the individual that the Concord police believe is responsible for the felony crimes should send a clear message to other criminals of like mind: Every citizen deserves to be treated with respect and dignity; our differences as individuals are what enriches our community; and those who aim to perpetuate hate and do so by committing crimes will be sought and held accountable for their actions. Time did not deter our efforts in seeking what was right and just.
The suspect in this case will have his day in court. As the police chief and citizen of this wonderful community, I can tell you that I have never been more hopeful for the future of the city and humbled by the way we, as a community, responded to this crime.
The symbol for “crisis” in Chinese is made up of two characters. The first character represents “danger” and the second, “opportunity.” In the midst of danger, the community did not react in a divisive fashion. Instead, Concord identified an opportunity and responded with positive messaging and openness for learning.
I ask that we push the opportunity even further by learning about our newest citizens. Equally important is becoming a teacher for those who are seeking common ground with others who are different from them.
It can start with a smile, a simple handshake, or a greeting of hello. I encourage you to try it sometime. Asking questions of citizens who come from different cultures is okay and welcomed. I have seen firsthand the warmth and genuineness of our newest Americans, and I am a better person for it.
We all need a sense of safety, security and a place to call home. Most would certainly agree that it is comforting to receive a welcoming message, especially when we are in a new or unfamiliar place. Hatred did not prevail in this case. Hatred must never prevail.
Be the change. Love your neighbor.
(John Duval is the Concord police chief.)