New York City

Gov. Cuomo launches hotline to report escalating hate crimes

Meanwhile, Velázquez pushes for hotline at federal level

November 16, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision, AP
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Pointing to the charged political environment following the election of Donald Trump as president, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday that there has been “an explosion” recently in the number of hate crime across New York state.

He launched a toll-free hotline — 1-888-392-3644 — to report incidents of bias and discrimination.

Incidents include hostile insults and threats, graffiti, swastikas and reports of assaults both upstate and in New York City. The NYPD said Wednesday that the number of hate crimes has risen 31.5 percent in 2016 compared to 2015.

Alleged assault in Brooklyn restaurant

In Brooklyn, a Trump supporter reportedly punched a woman in the face after overhearing her support for Hillary Clinton on Saturday night. The attack took place at the popular French restaurant Bar Tabac in Boerum Hill.

“To the tough guy who assaulted a female patron of ours on Saturday night over a political conversation: Once the law is done with you, do not come back to Bar Tabac (this includes your partner),” Bar Tabac posted on their Facebook page.

The eatery added, “At a point in this nation when tensions are highest we need to come together now more than ever, we apologize to any customers who had to witness this vulgar outburst.”

Police are also looking for an attacker accused of choking a man who was wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ hat on the subway Friday, according to the New York Post.

Cuomo said in a statement that the incidents are still being investigated “and it’s not a crime until we have evidence of it being a crime.”

But “circumstantially, they were very, very troubling,” he said, “and we want to make a very clear statement in this state: that there is no place for racism, there is no place for hate, there is no place for swastikas, there is no place for racially-inflammatory and divisive rhetoric or acts. This is New York. This is America. We are all immigrants and the way this state and this country works is we are a diverse population. By definition we are a diverse population. That’s what founded the country and the diversity is its strength, and we’re not going to let anyone turn the diversity into a weakness, and we’re not going to be pitted one against another.”

Cuomo said that New York has a very strict hate crimes law, and authorities aim to enforce it.

He added, “I understand the political environment out there, and I understand the sentiments that have been raised, but the law is the law. The hate crimes legislation and the hate crimes laws will be enforced.”

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office also mans a hate crime hotline: “We urge anyone who believes they have been a victim of or a witness to a hate crime to call our Hate Crimes Hotline at 718-250-4949,” the DA’s Office said in a statement.

Velázquez pushes for federal hotline

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has introduced legislation to establish a federal “Hate Crimes Hotline,” according to a statement released Thursday. The bill, H.R. 6328, the “National Hate Crimes Hotline Act of 2016” would also provide online assistance for victims of bias-based violence.

Under Velázquez’s measure, the U.S. Attorney General would be charged with establishing a national, toll-free hotline so hate crimes could be more centrally reported.  An analysis from June by the Associated Press suggested that these crimes go heavily underreported with 2,800 local police departments failing to report any hate crimes in a year.  The bill would also establish a secure Internet site to facilitate reporting of these acts.

“The first part of solving any problem requires admitting there is one,” Velázquez noted. “We need a mechanism for improving the reporting of these crimes so that we can better tackle the problem.”

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