Legislative Gazette: Hoylman report examines spike in hate crimes

August 27, 2013

August 26, 2013 : By Matthew Dondiego

Following a series of anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered attacks, state Senator Brad Hoylman has released a report on New York's hate crime laws. The detailed report reveals anti-LGBT hate crimes have increased in each of the last three years and its author is urging fellow lawmakers to reform its handling of hate crimes and discriminatory attacks.

According to the report, 19.5 percent of hate crimes are now based on a victim's sexual orientation — the third largest targeted demographic behind religion and race; at 45.8 percent and 32.9 percent respectively. In 2012 there was a reported 470 incidents involving anti-LGBT attack victims, up from 398 in 2010.

"It has been a very difficult summer for the LGBT community, particularly in New York City with the number of hate crimes, including a murder," said Holyman, D–Manhattan. "I can't explain it. Some have attributed it to the fact that the LGBT community has had victories," a reference to the Supreme Court's decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act and New York's state progressive stance on gay rights.

New York defines a hate crime as "a certain crime committed when an offender selects a victim because of a belief or perception about the victim regarding race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, or commits a certain crime because of a belief or perception regarding race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation."
Holyman's report offers recommendations to the state that would help prevent hate crimes and better prepare police officers to identify, respond to and report to hate crimes, "in order to best handle cases of people from diverse groups in the state."

The report urges the New York state comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, to audit state law enforcement agencies in order to ensure their compliance with the state's Executive Law on hate crimes reporting requirements and training assessment to improve identifying, reacting and investigating such crimes.

"The surge of hate crimes is a wake-up call for New Yorkers," said Hoylman, a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Investigations and Government Operations. "Experts tell me that they're concerned how law enforcement agencies collect data, report incidents and train personnel under the Hate Crimes Law. That's why I'm requesting the New York State Comptroller conduct an audit of state and local law enforcement agencies to examine their compliance with the State's hate crimes reporting requirement and to assess the adequacy and consistency of the hate crimes training."

Hoylman says he has had "informal conversations" with the comptroller's office and although no decision on moving forward with the proposed audits has been revealed, the senator says he will continue to follow up with the office.

Eric Sumberg, press secretary for the state Comptroller's Office, said the report was under review and there was no expected timetable for a decision. "What I can say at this time is we are reviewing the report." Sumberg declined to comment further.

The report shows that the average hate crime offender in New York City is between 13 and 22 years old, with juveniles being more likely to become the target of a hate crime. The increased rate of hate crime offenses among the city's youth underscores the need for educational programs teaching anti-bullying and anti-hate, according to the report.

Hoylman, who is gay, insists the state's Dignity for All Students Act be strictly enforced to "to ensure our public schools are educational environments that promote diversity and understanding, and are free from discrimination and harassment."

To enforce the law, the report recommends the integration of tolerance, anti-bullying and anti-harassment education into the civility curricula for grades K-12; active reporting by schools of bullying and harassment to the New York State Department of Education; active investigating of schools that report a high number of incidents and addressing the problems at these schools by the Department of Education and to have at least one trained staff member in recognizing and addressing bullying, harassment and discrimination at all schools.

Other recommendations include periodic reviews of the state's Hate Crime Law to evaluate the ongoing and changing impact it has on the community; mandatory law enforcement training in regards to hate crimes and expanding the coverage under the Hate Crimes Act to include transgendered residents by passing the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act — legislation that failed to receive an up or down vote on the Senate floor before session ended.

Holyman and state Senator Daniel Squadron, D–Carroll Gardens, once again urged their colleagues in the Senate to pass GENDA following the death of Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgendered woman who was assaulted by a group of men in Harlem on August 17. She died on August 22.

"The truth is that in most parts of New York, transgender individuals have little recourse to protect themselves from the violence, hatred and discrimination afflicted upon them," Holyman said. "Ms. Nettles's death should serve as a wake-up call to my colleagues in the state Senate that we need to act now to protect New Yorkers like her, and ensure that she did not die in vain."

"Islan was 21 years old. And her life and future were stolen from her. Let's be clear: intolerance, discrimination, and hate have no place in New York or anywhere," said Squadron, who is running for New York City Public Advocate. "Each outrage is another call: It's time for New York to send that message loudly and clearly by finally passing GENDA."

Hoylman's report also advocates for the effectiveness of restorative justice programs for nonviolent hate crime offenders. Such programs help young people and other offenders avoid the criminal justice system while allowing them to learn about the basic principles and ideas of tolerance.

The report cites an incident in which the Kings County District Attorney ordered a youth who painted swastikas on public property to attend community service with the Holocaust Park Museum to learn about the Holocaust, the Jewish people and the impact hate crimes have on a community.