Dachtler hopes to begin rolling out hate crime response by fall 2020

City Council Ward 2 Rep. Katie Dachtler has taken charge of the Grand Forks City Council's coordinated response to a hate crime that occurred last month in Grand Forks. She hopes to roll out the first phase of her plan – a class or seminar for UND students on their rights and responsibilities as renters – by this fall.

Katie Dachtler (2).jpg
Katie Dachtler

Hate is a difficult thing to legislate out of a community, Grand Forks City Council President Dana Sande said at a recent City Council meeting, but Ward 2 Representative Katie Dachtler has some ideas to try.

Dachtler has long advocated for bridging the gap between renters and homeowners in Grand Forks. A recent hate crime within the ward she represents illustrates the importance of continuing to build a more welcoming community, Dachtler said.

"This is about building a community where everybody feels like they're safe, they're welcome, they have the right to go about their business and not feel afraid or not feel like someone doesn't care, or that no one cares," she said.

Dachtler is working to implement a five-point plan as she leads the council's response to the incident, when several tenants of a South Sixth Street home allegedly yelled a phrase with commonly-known ties to white supremacy from the rooftop of their rental house in the early morning hours of April 26.

Although no charges were filed, police classified it as disorderly conduct. Such classification is standard practice for crimes that result in a report, regardless of whether the crime results in formal charges. Because this particular crime also involved a racist phrase and was found to be threatening toward non-white residents of the neighborhood, it was also classified as a hate crime.


Following the declaration that it was a hate crime, Sande met with the tenants to discuss what had happened and to explain why their actions were inappropriate. Some residents called Sande's response hurtful, suggesting that in the aftermath of the incident Sande was more concerned with the alleged perpetrators than the victims. Sande denied that was the case, but apologized for any unintended hurt he caused.

"I thought that I was doing what was right," he said. "I certainly wasn't trying to be hurtful to anyone. Because I thought Katie did a great job of expressing the sentiment that people should be good to one another, I also didn't want to take away from what Katie was saying."

Sande met with Heidi Castle, who reported the crime, and her family last week after the council meeting. Castle said they had a good conversation, and she was happy with the outcome. She told the Herald she is still pursuing charges against the tenants of the nearby home, although no charges have yet been filed.

Meanwhile, Dachtler has continued to work closely with several local agencies to implement her long-term plan, the first phases of which she hopes will be rolled out this fall. They're working with UND to introduce classes and seminars for UND students and which will emphasize living in a community, and their own rights and responsibilities as a renter. She also has begun working toward the restorative justice phase of her plan, which aims to help mend the relationship between renters and homeowners in her ward.

Dachtler intends to work with the High Plains Fair Housing Center to offer Fair Housing Act training, to streamline communications about rental properties through one city department, and to improve understanding about the city's three-strike program for rental properties. She said she hopes clear progress will have been made in the plan within a year and a half.

"I don't foresee a bunch of new policies or ordinances that are going to be brought forth to the council, because I do think what we have on the books is robust," she said. "It's just a matter of enforcement and understanding who is responsible for what piece of data collection and enforcement. ... Are there things we need to tighten up? Are there things that can be removed, or things we need to add?

"This is really serving as an unfortunate catalyst to do that," she said.

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