New York City prides itself on being one of the most diverse cities in the world — but being a cultural capital carries the danger of hate crimes being committed across the city.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has made prosecuting hate crimes a central part of his work, expanding the team of people dedicated to the hate crimes from 2 to 17. Now, he's working with the New York State Legislature to add 31 new eligible hate crime offenses to state law.
"That's a crime not just against one person, but it tears at the fabric of our psyche," Bragg explained.
The list of discrepancies between what can and can't be charged as a hate crime is long. For example, a single person committing an assault can be charged as a hate crime, but multiple people assaulting one person cannot.
Bragg sat down with Scripps News to discuss his efforts to close these kinds of loopholes.
"This is born from our experience of sitting across from victims, and saying, 'Hey, we can't charge maybe the most straightforward application, or maybe not charge at all as a hate crime because the statute doesn't allow what happened to you as a predicate crime,'" he said.
The proposal comes as tensions are at a boiling point for Jews in the city. According to NYPD data, antisemitic hate crimes are up 214%, as the war between Israel and Hamas rages. That same data shows hate crimes committed against Jewish people tripled in October, far more than any other community. It escalated in November, with 69 of the 101 total crimes recorded being committed against Jews.
Bragg tells Scripps News hate crimes in any community are often underreported, and that changes to the law would likely create even more cases for his growing team. Right now, his hands are tied in many instances, even for those crimes that are reported.
Last month, vandals defaced a Jewish cultural center in the Bronx with spray paint and eggs smashed on the building. This is not Bragg's jurisdiction, but he says that while other charges could apply, at the moment, the vandalism could not be charged as a hate crime.
Under new legislation Bragg proposed with colleagues in the New York State Legislature that would change, as well as the ability to charge people who use slurs with a hate crime.
"If someone says an epithet and punches you, well, then that's how we would prove the motive," Bragg said.
He says the new laws would act as a deterrent.
"I think it will result in more accountability," Bragg said. "When we don't have accountability for this kind of conduct, I think I think people see that."
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