Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg wants to know why the same exact racially motivated attack can’t be charged as a hate crime if the victim was attacked by a group of people instead of an individual. Well he knows why, he’s just befuddled by the logic: assault is chargeable as a hate crime, but gang assault—when the suspect is “aided by two or more other persons actually present”—is not.
The newly-introduced Hate Crimes Modernization Act would close such a loophole by expanding the number of hate crime chargeable offenses from 66 to 97 statewide. Bragg announced the bill alongside sponsors State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal and Assemblymember Grace Lee earlier this month.
“Whether you live in Harlem, Chinatown or Hell’s Kitchen, no community is immune from experiencing hate crimes,” said Bragg over email. “Bias-related harassment and violence are unacceptable, and this new legislation is a commonsense fix that addresses loopholes in the current statute. Adding to the list of eligible hate crimes offenses will help deter these acts by bringing additional cases and goes hand in hand with our community outreach efforts to ensure victims feel comfortable reporting incidents to their local precincts and to our Office.”
“As we witness an unprecedented rise in bias-motivated crimes against Jewish, Muslim, Asian American, Black, and LGBTQ people, it’s of utmost importance that New York closes the dozens of loopholes in our hate crime statute to send the urgent message that hatred won’t be tolerated in our state,” added Hoylman-Sigal. “I’m proud to introduce the Hate Crimes Modernization Act (S7737) with District Attorney Bragg and Assembly Member Lee, which will give prosecutors the necessary tools to take appropriate action against hate. With this bill, we can protect New Yorkers of differing backgrounds.”
The 31 proposed offenses covered by the bill include first-degree murder and second-degree rape. Second-degree murder and first-degree rape are already on the hate crime statute. False reporting of an incident could also be charged as a hate crime if the bill as it stands passes.
According to the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, anti-Black hate crimes currently account for the fourth most open cases in New York County, behind anti-Asian, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-Semitic offenses. Citywide, there were four anti-Black hate crimes reported by the NYPD last month and 43 this year as of Oct. 31.
“New York is currently experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of hate, and this includes anti-Black hate crimes, which is one of the most common forms of hate crimes in Manhattan,” said Lee over email. “The Hate Crimes Modernization Act will protect vulnerable communities, including New York’s Black community, by equipping our laws to address hate crimes when they take place. Every time a hate crime goes unrecognized, its victims are denied justice, and hate is further normalized and allowed to spread.
“This bill will empower minority communities by validating victims’ experiences, and it delivers a clear message that hate has no place in New York.”
District Attorneys of the other four boroughs also provided their stamps of approval.
“The Hate Crimes Modernization Act adds dozens of serious crimes to the penal law ensuring greater accountability for those who commit violence with hate in their hearts,” said Bronx D.A. Darcel Clark in a statement. “Our city has seen a record number of hate crimes, and we will have more tools responding to ignorance and prejudice.”
“Prosecutors need the ability to enhance bias motivated offenses whenever they take place, and the Hate Crime Modernization Act would allow us to do just that,” added Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez.
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member who writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.