Saturday, December 13, 2008

Suffolk Police Department under the Loop for Hate Crimes.

The Suffolk County Police Department is conducting a sweeping review of police reports to search for evidence of hate crimes that haven't shown up in official statistics, Commissioner Richard Dormer said Thursday.

Dormer told the county legislature's Public Safety Committee that he launched the investigation two weeks ago. He said it will include every 2008 police report from the Fifth Precinct in Patchogue, where Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero was killed Nov. 8.

Seven teenagers who police say sought to attack a Hispanic person have been charged in connection with his death.

Dormer said reviews will continue in other precincts covering neighborhoods in Brentwood and Huntington with significant Hispanic populations.

We need to be aware and be sensitive that even if [reports are] written up as minor incidents, they may indicate that something larger is happening," Dormer said in an interview.

Dormer said he does not have a target date to finish the review and that the final results may not be made public.

Since the Lucero killing, Dormer and County Executive Steve Levy have defended the county's hate crime statistics, which list one anti-Hispanic crime in 2007 that fits criteria of the hate crimes statute.

Levy says the county's anti-Hispanic crime figures are similar to Nassau's. Between 2005 and 2007, for instance, each county reported 13 hate crimes against Hispanics. Overall in that period, Suffolk reported to the state a total of 264 crimes that fit the hate crimes statute, while Nassau reported 313.

Suffolk also provided new statistics Thursday showing that over the same period, 25 hate incidents against Hispanics were reported to police. Not all the incidents ended up fitting the hate crimes statute, however. No comparable figures for Nassau were available.

Patrick Young, director of the Central American Refugee Center in Hempstead, said the review shows Levy and Dormer are questioning Suffolk's official crime statistics.

"It shows that the confidence that Steve Levy and Commissioner Dormer expressed a week ago was already in question in their own minds a week prior to that," he said.

State Assemb. Phil Ramos (D- Central Islip), a former Suffolk detective who Thursday called for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to investigate the county's hate crime data, said that although he welcomes Dormer's review, the police reports probably won't offer a complete picture of ethnic attacks.

"Field reports are very brief," he said. "Certainly it's worthy of review, but I think that more intensive review would reveal a truer picture."

County Legis. Ricardo Montano (D-Central Islip) said the review won't capture the primary problem -- that Hispanics are afraid to call police.

"If you view the local police as your enemy
," he said, "you're not going to call them."

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