The NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC) was officially launched today to help with the increase in hate crimes the city has been experiencing.
Just last week, a 63-year-old Jewish man was out for his morning walk in Crown Heights when a man threw a massive brick at his face. A few days before that, a woman told an 18-year-old Muslim girl on the B6 to “Go back to your country” and “What is that rag on your head?” She then spat on the girl’s face and threw her cup of soda at her.
Hate crimes in NYC and across the country have been on the rise, especially against Jewish people. As of May 2018, there were 58 reported hate crimes directed at Jewish people that year, while 2019 as of the end of May has seen roughly double that amount—110 anti-Semitic hate crimes—according to NYPD statistics.
Overall, hate crimes were up 64 percent, the NYPD says, and 60 percent of the total hate crimes were against Jewish people—particularly in areas home to many Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.
OPHC is an office that is now a part of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. It was set to launch in November, but Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that it will instead launch today. The new office will “coordinate responses to hate crimes across City agencies, taking a holistic approach to preventing hate crimes, developing and coordinating community-driven prevention strategies to address biases fueling crimes, and fostering reconciliation and healing for victims,” as well as supporting NYPD training, launching support programs for victims, improving hate crime reporting, and working with groups to make sure victims are able to come forward.
De Blasio named Deborah Lauter, Director of Civil Rights at the Anti-Defamation League, as the executive director of OPHC. Lauter stressed that the new office will not be working as direct responders, rather it will be working to look “at the systems and making sure that they work well.”
“In New York City, we celebrate and uphold our differences and reject any attempt to hate or divide,” de Blasio said in June. “OPCH will work to root out hate and make our streets safer, which is why we’re moving up the timeline and opening the office months ahead of schedule. We will never stand idly by while our fellow New Yorkers are targeted because of their race, religion, sexual orientation or any other quality that makes them who they are.”
NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson said, “Diversity is New York’s strength and our city has zero-tolerance for hate of any kind. That’s why the City Council pushed to create and fund this new office. The rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes is particularly disturbing and our hope is that through the efforts of this office, we will reduce these incidents as well all hate crimes against all groups. We are looking forward to working with Deborah Lauter to combat hate and promote tolerance.”
Borough President Eric Adams had this to say about the new office.
“The opening of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes is coming at a critical juncture, as our borough and our city contends with a rise in hate crimes. But we should also emphasize that prevention should go beyond one office – it needs to be embedded in every agency,” he told Bklyner. “Eliminating the presence of hate in our city will take all of us, and I look forward to coordinating with the office in the months to ensure our city remains a place where all people, regardless of their identity, are welcome and safe.”
Council Member Chaim Deutsch told Bklyner he was happy about the new office, but it should not have taken this long.
“I’m very glad that Mayor de Blasio has listened to us and finally taken steps to open this office. I believe that, if handled correctly, it can be an important tool in tackling rising hate crimes here in New York City,” he said. “That said, the lack of communication with City Council Members, community-based organizations, the Jewish Caucus, and the bill sponsors is troubling. Last time I checked, New York City is not an autocracy.”