Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hate crimes rise in Nassau. Hate crimes are the product of Ignorance.

Reports of hate crimes in Nassau County rose 22 percent last year -- 150 cases were reported in 2007, up from 123 cases reported in 2006 -- largely because of two waves of anti-Semitic and anti-black crimes, according to a special report compiled by the Nassau County Police Department.

The hate crimes peaked in September and October, when a spate of swastika graffiti, hate mailings and synagogue vandalism during the Jewish high holy days was coupled with a number of nooses found locally that mirrored high-profile noose cases nationally, said police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey.

"I'm concerned about the fact that we've seen a dramatic reduction in overall crimes but we're seeing an increase in hate crimes," said County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

Categorized by intended target, the report was issued Jan. 14 for a bias crimes task force that Suozzi formed in October. Anti-Semitic crimes were by far the most prevalent, with 110 of the 150 cases. A spate of anti-Semitic mailings to 25 families in Roslyn "skewed" the statistics, Mulvey said. He added that a 2006 state law that criminalized swastika graffiti and cross-burning has contributed to the rise in reports as well.

Some of last year's hate crimes drew public attention that may have inspired copycats, Mulvey said. "Sometimes when there is media focus on a situation, it creates an outlet for people to show hate too."

He pointed out the media attention on the arrest of a Manhasset man who was affiliated with a white supremacist group and who was charged with painting swastikas on a synagogue, as well as the focus on the noose found at a Jena, La., high school that may have sparked nooses around Nassau County and at Columbia University.
But the president of the Freeport Roosevelt NAACP, Doug Mayers, said the copycat theory diminished the crime's gravity.
"There are no copycats when it comes to hanging nooses and swastikas all over the bloody place," he said.

While bias crime coordinator Det. Sgt. Gary Shapiro hailed what he called the county's "proactive" approach, he acknowledged that these crimes are often underreported.

"It is a source of concern why, year after year, we don't see ... decreases in these categories," he said. "These are crimes where sometimes people are very uncomfortable with reporting what happened.
"We do the best we can in identifying the crimes that are motivated by hate, but it's a very difficult endeavor," he added.

The task force, made up of representatives from village police departments and colleges, recommended that the police department create a powerful video presentation on bias for high schoolers, Mulvey said.
"Hate crimes are the product of ignorance," Suozzi said. "The best thing to combat ignorance is education."

No comments: