Six people assaulted and yelled anti-Semitic slurs at Sam Levy, 48, at the roundabout in Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Sunday, February 19 (Presidents’ Day weekend), at about 8:25 p.m. A 16-year-old has been charged with assault as a hate crime, according to the Queens District Attorney’s office.
Six swastikas were drawn in Forest Hills and Rego Park from March 18 to March 22, in front of places like the 112 Precinct, two in front of Junior High School Halsey, one in front of The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, and another by the apartment building at 110-11 Queens Boulevard.
There were 13 reported hate crimes, two of them anti-Semitic, and nine arrests within the 109 Precinct confines in 2022. There were eight reported hate crimes, six of them anti-Semitic, with no arrests within the 112 Precinct confines in 2022, according to NYPD’s Hate Crimes Dashboard.
What is done when there is a hate crime? Representatives from the NYPD, the Queens District Attorney, and Northwell Hospital in Forest Hills discussed their roles at a forum at Commonpoint Queens in Forest Hills on Thursday, March 23.
Detective Sergeant Jessie Ankele, from the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force, said that cell-phone videos and pictures taken by the public help a lot. The police canvass the area, check for videos or pictures, and interview potential witnesses.
A police officer immediately notifies a supervisor whenever a hate crime is suspected. One of the 20 detectives at the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force becomes involved. Victims can also report a hate crime to an advocacy group, such as the Anti-Defamation League, which will notify the police.
Assistant Deputy Bureau Chief Gabriel Mendoza is one of five Queens Assistant District Attorneys at the Hate Crimes Unit.
Crime is traumatic, so victims might remember the actual crime but “may not think in that moment to describe the words that were being said or the surrounding circumstances,” said Mendoza.
The District Attorney’s office looks at social media accounts and past actions by perpetrators to see if prejudice played a role in their alleged crime. The office has video translators and attorneys who speak multiple languages.
Motive is a key element when prosecuting a hate crime. A hate crime is an attack on a person’s identity. “They’re attacking your existence, your right to live comfortably in our community,” said Mendoza, “and that’s particularly traumatizing.”
If it is a hate crime, then the criminal charge is elevated by one degree, which could mean more jail time. Mental health counseling and education, especially for juveniles, can be offered to stop the behavior, said Mendoza.
Dr. Christopher Calandrella, Chair of the Emergency Department at Northwell Hospital, said staff is trained to detect if someone is a victim of a hate crime. The victim is put into “an environment with privacy and confidentiality” so he or she “can process the events.”
A doctor, a nurse, and a social worker are assigned to see “if there are any immediate threats.” “Sometimes it takes time for the person to get comfortable and to establish trust,” said Dr. Calandrella.
At the emergency room, the staff asks questions to see if this was a sexual assault, a sudden and unprovoked crime, and if it has been reported to the police.
Sometimes patients want to wait for family members to come to the hospital. Social workers, chaplains, and resources like Safe Horizon are made available to the patient.
Karen Cary, Nurse Manager at Northwell Hospital, said that victims need to know that “this is not about you. There is nothing wrong with you. You didn’t do anything wrong. This is about the person who did this.”
Central Queens Against Hate organized the forum, which was in-person and on Zoom. Mark Laster, a co-founder of the newly formed group, was the moderator. Another co-founder is Amy Long, who met Mark Laster at an online rally against Asian hate in early 2022.
Their new group sponsored “A Day of Healing and Beyond.” The group also sponsored “Bystander Training,” given by the NYC Commission of Human Rights, giving techniques to safely intervene, as well as “Know Your Rights,” given by Community Solutions, to empower victims.
The group wants to create a neighborhood healing/talking circle, with training from the Restorative Justice Initiative, for victims of hate and other crimes. People could discuss what they went through in a safe space.
Mark Laster hopes Central Queens Against Hate helps “to lower the temperature a little bit” in society. “People are not talking to each other. They are yelling at each other over Twitter and Facebook, and it just feels like we need to talk more.”
By David Schneier