State

New York state pledges $25 million to help reduce risk of hate crimes

Casey Russell | Feature Editor

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced earlier this year the establishment of a state grant program to decrease the risk of hate crimes.

New York state is continuing its fight against hate with a new multi-million-dollar grant for combating hate crimes and attacks.

New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $25 million grant program to be distributed throughout the state to boost safety and security at schools and day care centers at risk of hate crimes because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.

“Any acts of bias or discrimination will be met with the full force of the law,” Cuomo said in a statement earlier this year. “New York is and always has been a place that celebrates diversity and religious tolerance, and we say to all New Yorkers who feel unsafe — we will always protect you.”

Cuomo also launched a hate crime text line that enables people in the state to report a crime. Those who witness bias or discrimination are able to text “HATE” to an official number with details of the incident. This follows a toll-free phone service launched in November 2016.

“New York state has some of the strongest hate crimes laws in the nation,” said Michael Snow, assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League New York region.

Snow, along with ADL New York Regional Director Evan Bernstein, recently helped organize Anti-Defamation League law enforcement training along with Cuomo from March 6 to 9. More than 120 members of state and local law enforcement participated in this event, according a statement.

New York ADL is working to fight racism and hate by strengthening ties between communities, working with elected officials and partnering with law enforcement, Snow said. In particular, they are taking a “comprehensive approach” to fight anti-Semitism, Snow said.

ADL released its Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents on April 24, which detailed a surge of hate crimes within recent months. Compared to the first quarter of 2016, there was a 127 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents during the same time period in 2017, according to the report.

In Westchester, Rockland County and in upstate New York, there were 26 anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017, which was six more than the all of 2016, according to ADL’s report. Examples included swastikas spray-painted on a home, a student receiving a text depicting him in a gas chamber and anti-Semitic graffiti found in a bathroom at State University of New York Buffalo.

There have also been many threats toward Jewish community centers within the state, with incidents happening in cities like Syracuse, Albany and Rochester. At the Syracuse center, there were three bomb threats in 2017 — on Jan. 18, Jan. 31 and March 7.

Linda Alexander, the president and chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Central New York, said she is glad that Cuomo is fighting against hate crimes in the state.

While it is difficult to pinpoint causes of an increase of hate crimes, Alexander said she believes the speed at which messages can spread through social media might be a reason.

“People feel empowered to say pretty hateful things,” she said.

In its mission statement, the Jewish Federation declares it works to make sure the Jewish community of central New York is secure. Alexander praised the work of local police for adding shifts patrolling the center and increasing security in the area.

However, she also said she knows progress will be slow. Alexander wants to wait and see where the grant money is being distributed throughout the state and hopes there will be money for upstate New York.

“I hope to see some forward progress, and I totally expect that we will,” Alexander said.

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