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Hate Crime

Home of Arab family vandalized the morning before July 4.

On the morning of Monday, July 3, members of the Abu-Eid family, who live outside the Town of Vienna off Hunter Mill Road, awoke to find their front yard had been transformed during the night. Several rolls of toilet paper had been unfurled on the bushes. Eggs had been broken outside the garage. Newspapers had been set afire in the recycling bin at the end of the driveway. Written in paint on the driveway, in four-foot letters, was the word "ARAB."

Maha Abu-Eid said the vandalism must have been carried out in the early morning, as the family had been awake until well after midnight.

She expressed shock over the incident, saying she had never expected something like this to happen in such an affluent and well-educated area.

"We are American like them," she said. "My kids are born here."

This was not the first time the house had been vandalized. It was more like the sixth or seventh time, said Abu-Eid's daughter, Dalia. She said broken glass had been spread on the driveway only weeks prior, and tires on the family cars had been slashed more than once. Eggs had been smashed in their mailbox. A large, derogatory picture had once been drawn in the snow in their front yard.

"Basically, we've been humiliated in our own neighborhood just because we're Arab," she said.

THE FAMILY has lived in the same house since 1991. However, said Maha, the vandalism did not start until shortly after 9/11.

Until now, she said, they had not assumed the incidents were race-related. "At the beginning, we tried not to make it a big deal," she said. "We thought, maybe these are just drunk teenagers driving around."

The burned newspapers, she said, were especially disconcerting, coupled with the increasingly brazen nature of the offenses. "We are afraid they can come up and start burning the house," she said. The family is considering setting up a camera.

"It doesn't make sense to take a random family in the middle of Vienna, Va. and connect them to some event," such as 9/11, said Dalia. For example, she said, her family would not let this incident affect how they perceive their community. "You can't let any event change your ethical standards on people and society and everything."

She pointed out that the perpetrators must have known the family in order to be aware that it was a Middle Eastern household. She attended James Madison High School, where her brother, Mohammed, is now enrolled, and she affirmed that it was a possibility that the perpetrators know one or both of them through the school.

Fairfax County police officers came to the scene and collected evidence, including a tube of paint and several other items, said Maha Abu-Eid.

TWO OTHER race-related incidents took place elsewhere in the county on the same day, the day before the Fourth of July. Racial slurs were written on a wall at Longfellow Middle School in McLean and on one of the school's buses, as well as on the doorframe of a residence in the Franconia District.

Officer Richard Henry of the county's police Public Information Office said the other two incidents were not directed against Middle Easterners.

County-wide, such offenses are not uncommon. In 2005, 123 "bias events" were reported. This represented almost a doubling of the previous year's rate, although the department accounted for most of the increase as a result of stepped-up training and education of officers regarding bias incidents, as well as a department-wide effort to encourage gay, lesbian and transgender victims to report such offenses.

Most of these incidents — 40 — were against blacks, according to police records. Fourteen ridiculed victims' various national origins, and six targeted Muslims. There were also six anti-Christian offenses.

It can also be difficult to know whether some crimes, such as the anonymous slashing of tires, are race-related.

Henry noted that there was no noticeable spike in anti-Muslim offenses in the county since 9/11.

Of the racial incidents that constitute punishable crimes, many are solved in spite of generally scanty evidence. Henry said the department had not yet compiled the arrest rate for race-related crimes in 2005, but he reported that in 2004, of the 39 "bias events" that constituted criminal offenses, 16 perpetrators were identified.

He said the Abu-Eid family's case has been handed over to detectives at the Reston District station and is under investigation.

Vienna Police Captain Mike Miller reported that he had never seen a blatantly race-related incident within the town limits. "We haven't seen any graffiti or any vandalism of that nature yet," he said.