Lawmaker Introduces Bills To Combat Hate Crimes

Originally published in State of Politics on January 14, 2020.

The rise in the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York is leading lawmakers to back new legislation meant to address the problem.

Democratic state Sen. Anna Kaplan on Monday announced the introduction of four measures meant to combat bias crimes in New York while also backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo's stated plan of bolstering anti-terrorism laws to include hate crimes.

"As a Jewish refugee who came to this country fleeing anti-Semitic violence in my homeland, my heart aches over the out-of-control spree of anti-Semitic violence taking place here in New York," Kaplan said. "I've been proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with New Yorkers of all faiths and backgrounds as we have marched in the streets and loudly proclaimed that we will not allow anti-Semitism and hatred to take hold in New York, and today, I'm proud to announce that I am taking concrete steps to address this crisis from every direction."

One of the bills will require the State Education Department to have schools educate both parents and students about discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, race and gender identity or expression, while another would have state education officials develop age-appropriate crime awareness curriculum.

Kaplan also wants to change the state's criminal law to allow for declarations and statements to be admitted as evidence to show a person intentionally committed a hate crime because of the defendant's belief or perception.

And Kaplan is calling for a bill that would create a statewide campaign of promoting acceptance and inclusion.

Recent numbers released by state law enforcement officials show a 36 percent increase in hate crime incidents between 2017 and 2018 directed at the Jewish community.

The most high-profile incident of late was a machete attack late last year that injured five people in an Orthodox community in Rockland County.