NEW YORK - New York City will open its Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes in the coming months, amidst a staggering rise in anti-Semitic incidents throughout the city, to coordinate responses to hate crimes across City agencies and create a “holistic approach” to preventing them.
The new office was originally scheduled to open in November, but Mayor Bill Deblasio said on Tuesday that the opening will occur ahead of schedule. He added that the office will be embedded in the mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
The new division's responsibilities will include developing and coordinating community-driven prevention strategies to address biases fueling crimes, and fostering reconciliation and healing for victims. It will also support police officer training and promote reporting of hate crimes, which is still a challenge for affected communities.
Recent NYPD figures show that while crime has dropped in general, incidents of hate crimes increased by 64 percent last year.
A majority of those incidents were of an anti-Semitic nature.
In 2018, the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force recorded a 23 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents city-wide with a total of 189 incidents, compared to 154 in 2017.
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While most of the 2018 incidents fall under criminal mischief, the number of assaults has jumped from only three in 2017 to 11 in 2018. Aggravated harassment, which includes the drawing of swastikas, has also risen from 41 to 71 incidents. Most incidents took place in Brooklyn, home to a large Orthodox Jewish population.
According to the Anti-Defamation League’s 2018 annual audit, which was released in April, anti-Semitic assaults in New York State rose 55 percent last year and represented nearly half of all such recorded attacks nationally.
“In New York City, we celebrate and uphold our differences and reject any attempt to hate or divide,” Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has also recently entered the 2020 presidential race, said. “The Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes will work to root out hate and make our streets safer, which is why we’re moving up the timeline and opening the office months ahead of schedule.”
“We will never stand idly by while our fellow New Yorkers are targeted because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or any other quality that makes them who they are,” he added.
According to the mayor's office, the new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes will strategically use non-law enforcement deterrence, including investing in public education campaigns, outreach and community safety models.