By RORY I. LANCMAN
The City Council last week held a hearing to examine how the city is combating white supremacist hate crimes, and what strategies the police are implementing in order to keep New Yorkers safe.
This is an especially important and timely topic. In recent years, New York City has experienced a sharp increase in the number of hate crimes, particularly targeting the Jewish community. Sadly, we have all heard the horrifying stories: buildings and monuments defaced; threatening graffiti; our fellow New Yorkers attacked.
More than 300 hate crimes in New York City have already been reported this year, and anti-Semitic hate crimes in particular have increased by 18 percent. These hate crimes are intended to create fear, division and mistrust among New Yorkers. For that reason alone, it is crucial that all of us, from every community, speak out forcefully and denounce hate in every form.
Our city was collectively outraged in October as members of a white supremacist hate group, known as the Proud Boys, viciously attacked individuals on the streets of New York. It was particularly outrageous to me that not one member of the Proud Boys was arrested immediately after the hate crime occurred, even though officers were present at one of the assaults. New York City seemed wholly unprepared for the violence that occurred, despite the fact that it was similar to what other cities have experienced.
It concerns me greatly that we do not have the same focus and intensity on thwarting domestic terrorists that we do on uncovering plots by international terrorists who wish to do us harm.
Following the “Proud Boys” assaults, I wanted to hear directly from the city and the police department about whether they are treating these white supremacist hate groups as the domestic terrorist organizations that they are. It was heartening to hear representatives from the police department stress how seriously the city is treating the influx of white supremacist hate crimes. But more must be done, and we need to see tangible action to assuage our concerns.
I believe that it is time for the city to support a Citywide Nonprofit Security Grant Program to provide religious and cultural institutions that are credible targets of violence with funds to protect themselves. While the state and federal governments already have funding available to at-risk institutions, the city has refused to make the same commitment.
This is an idea that I first proposed in the City Council last year, and should be made a priority moving forward. The city should be providing support to organizations that are right now scrambling to come up with the resources needed to ensure their safety.
Government has no greater responsibility than to keep people safe. The best way to do that is through greater preparation, increased security investment and a renewed focus on combating hate.
Rory Lancman is a City Council member representing Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills and Jamaica.