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NY Proposes stiffer hate crime laws

By Ti-Hua Chang

New legislation has been introduced in New York State to expand the categories of hate crimes to facilitate prosecution of them.  

On November 6th The Hate Crimes Modernization Act was publicly announced by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Jr. with the bill’s sponsors State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Grace Lee.

D.A. Bragg noted, “…if one person beats up another person because of the victim’s race that assault can be charged as a hate crime. But inexplicably if a group of people beats someone up because of their race that’s gang assault, as the law calls it, cannot be charged as a hate crime. That needs to change.”  

31 New hate crime categories added

The Hate Crimes Modernization Act would close loopholes by increasing the number of categories legally considered hate crimes from 66 to 97.  Some of the added possible hate crimes would be forcible sexual touching, sex trafficking, false reporting, making graffiti and criminal possession of a weapon.

October NYC hate crimes more than doubled

D.A. Bragg quantified the recent more than doubling of hate crimes in New York City. In October 2022 there were 45 hate crimes reported to the police, while in October 2023 there were 101 reported hate crimes.   The rise in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim attacks increased after the Hamas massacre of 1400 Israelis and the subsequent Israeli killing of some 10,000 Palestinians.

New hate crime bill submitted after antiSemitic attacks

State Senator Holyman-Sigal cited an FBI statistic of 11,600 hate crimes in the US in 2022. He added that after the October 7th Hamas attack, “… the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) recorded 646 antiSemitic incidents nationwide. A 400% increase over 2022.”

AAPI Assembly member notes 300% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes during pandemic

Assemblymember Lee said during the pandemic there was a 300% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in her lower Manhattan district which includes Chinatown.  She said in the Asian Community in New York, “it is not an exaggeration to say that we all know someone or have personally experienced an act of hate recently. Whether it was being yelled at, spat at or shoved.”

The news conference announcing the bill was attended by community representatives from the Jewish, Asian, African American, Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities.  All previous targets of hate in the US.

Asian American activist: “Good start, need more”

Don Lee, the Chair of the Homecrest Association and a long-time Asian American advocate called the Hate Crimes Modernization Act “a good start.”  But he added, “There needs to be more clarity… Because under the current law as is if there are no physical injuries or property damage it’s not even recorded.”

Asian American Bar Association: “He’s paying attention

Yang Chen,  a lawyer and Executive Director of the Asian American Bar Association of New York, echoed Mr. Lee’s assessment of the bill being, “A good start. D.A. Bragg, he’s paying attention.  We actually talked to him about this issue when he was running for office and he’s following up… He’s done something. That’s good.”  Chen did note that one issue the Asian American Bar Association raised with Bragg was out of 200 hate crimes reported in the news during the pandemic in New York City only 3% had indictments.   Sources say the DA’s office has disputed this study by the Asian American Bar Association arguing some cases were still pending and had not reached the indictment stage.

Asian American Federation Executive Director supportive and concerned

Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director the Asian American Federation, told AsAmNews that the new bill is an important step. “Our community continues to suffer from hate crimes. I want to make sure that law enforcement knows that Asian hate crimes are continuing…During Covid it was East Asians and now it’s South Asians…70% of people we interviewed said they’re afraid of being attacked.”  

Yoo, Chen and Lee all believe the number of attacks on Asians in New York City is significantly underreported and seek more effort by the New York Police Department (NYPD).

NYPD shut down anti-Asian Hate Crime Task Force

Post the pandemic, the NYPD Anti-Asian Hate Crime Task Force was disbanded. In response to an AsAmNews inquiry a spokesperson for the NYPD emailed back, “The anti-Asian Hate Crime Task Force was integrated into the Hate Crime Task Force.  They all work as one unit.”  The NYPD did not respond when AsAmNews asked how many Asian officers were in the unit.

Hate crime modernization act has support

The announcement of the Hate Crimes Modernization Act was attended by the Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, City Council majority leader Keith Powers and publicly supported by the District Attorneys of three other New York boroughs: Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island.   Manhattan D.A. Bragg said he believes the bill will become law.

State Senator Hoylman-Sigal said he believes New York Governor Kathy Hochul will be an ally on this bill. Her office did not return an inquiry by AsAmNews on her position on the bill. The Hate Crimes Modernization Act has already gone to committee, a crucial first step for legislation. It still needs to be passed by the New York State Senate, and the State Assembly before being signed into law by Governor Hochul.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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