by Charles Fain Lehman
Friday, 11
March 2022
Analysis
07:00

As anti-Semitism rises in New York, prosecutors fail to act

The NYPD made an arrest in just one in five anti-Semitic hate crimes
by Charles Fain Lehman
Credit: Getty

In May 2018, Ibrahima Seck approached Arquelio Negrón-Rosa, asked for a cigarette and, when Negrón-Rosa declined, called him a “Puerto Rican motherfucker” and kicked the 69-year-old down a flight of stairs, permanently dislocating his shoulder. For this felony hate crime, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark sent Seck to an alcohol abuse programme. When he graduated, he received conditional release.

There were over 500 hate crimes reported to the NYPD last year, city data shows, marking a 99% increase over 2020’s historic low. Over 200 anti-Semitic offences, a long-standing problem in the city, were compounded by nearly 150 anti-Asian incidents, which reflects a nationwide trend.

New York City’s leaders like to talk tough on hate crimes. But the data shows otherwise. Between 2015 and 2020, New York’s DAs got hate crime convictions in just 15% of cases, including 1% from the Bronx office. These low rates are part of a broader failure: the NYPD made an arrest in just one in three hate crimes since 2019, including just one in five anti-Semitic hate crimes, the most common type.

Hate crime enforcement is one of the ways we enforce public decency. In a city as big and diverse as New York, tensions between groups pose a unique threat to the moral order that makes civic life possible. By identifying offenses against other groups as particularly deserving of punishment, hate crime laws help keep the city respectful and peaceful.

But laws don’t work if they are unenforced. Diverting offenders like Seck reduces deterrence, as does waiving hate crime misdemeanours, like Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s prosecution policy would. So does repeatedly releasing offenders like Frank Abrowka, who was arrested for attacking a woman with faeces on the subway, then found to have committed a separate anti-Semitic attack last September. Abrowka is still on the street, thanks to New York State’s bail reform law.

The problem is bigger than inaction in the criminal justice system, of course. One in three anti-Semitic offendents is mentally ill. Plans to increase the number of treatment beds, and more frequently compel outpatient mental treatment, should help stop hate crime offending.

But if New York’s leaders are as serious about hate crimes as they claim to be, they need to start acting on it. Prioritise arresting and prosecuting hate crime offenders, and continue to challenge bail reform policies that let them out repeatedly. For the Jewish and Asian New Yorkers now afraid to walk the streets, it’s the least they can do. 

Charles Fain Lehman is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, working primarily on its Policing and Public Safety Initiative, and a Contributing Editor of City Journal.

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
5 months ago

A few months ago (in Areo Magazine, I think) there was an article about the increase in attacks on Jewish people – they were disproportionately by black Americans who’d bought into the type of nonsense promulgated by the Black Hebrew Israelites and similar groups.

Is this why there’s a reluctance to prosecute/punish? ‘Wrong’ perpetrators?

It’s apparently a factor in the similar unprovoked attacks on East Asian people too.

Critical Race theory would appear to be the real problem.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
5 months ago

The one example given is a crime of violence and abuse, pure and simple.

Why does it need the the word “hate” appended?

David Yetter
David Yetter
5 months ago

Why? Because in some quarters people wish to punish errant attitudes at least as severely at actual violence. A “hate” crime is worse according to the peoples’ lights than the same act committed out of veniality or greed or personal vengance because it is combines the underlying crime we can all agree on with the thought crime of emnity toward some group.
The reason anti-semitic “hate” crimes are not pursued as vigorously in American cities controlled by our party of the left (the Democrats) is that Jews are not one of the favored “oppressed” groups of the woke, as for instance are African-Americans, Muslims, or homosexuals, and add to that the fact that many perpetrators of anti-semitic violence and vandalism these days are not neo-Nazi white supremacists, but are themselves members of favored “oppressed” groups, esp. black or Muslim.

David McDowell
David McDowell
5 months ago
Reply to  David Yetter

I’m afraid there’s something in what you say. If the perps were white neoNazis, the Dems would be outraged, campaigning and legislating.

Philip Stott
Philip Stott
5 months ago

Not sure about the US, but in the UK hate crimes are punished more severely than those not motivated by hate.

D Ward
D Ward
5 months ago
Reply to  Philip Stott

How on earth can anyone prove a crime was “motivated by hate”?

Robert Kaye
Robert Kaye
5 months ago
Reply to  D Ward

How can we prove someone intended to kill, or intended to deprive the owner permanently of their property, or was acting dishonestly? Yet we seem to prosecute murder, theft and fraud and I don’t hear you moaning about that. So what’s your real issue?

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
5 months ago
Reply to  Robert Kaye

My real issue is as stated. Hate is not a crime. What’s yours, or are you just a lawyer?

David McDowell
David McDowell
5 months ago

That’s fair enough but malice on its own isn’t a crime either. But homicide with malice is a more serious crime than homicide without. Furthermore, the criminal law grades and measures malice and tariff in homicide cases accordingly.

Last edited 5 months ago by David McDowell
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago
Reply to  David McDowell

And it odes not need special categories in order to do so

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
5 months ago
Reply to  David McDowell

How so? The victim is dead either way

Jim R
Jim R
5 months ago

In Canada they plan to make the expression of hate a crime in itself. Legislation was tabled last year. That would include being critical of the concept of hate crime – since it shows you must be hateful toward the victims. Note that hate will only be a crime if its directed toward a minority group – hatred toward white males(other than the woke king Justin) is highly encouraged.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
5 months ago

To give some groups privileged status?

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
5 months ago

Let’s be clear about one thing — “hate crimes” are the biggest grift ever. It is the nakedly racially supremacist declaration that this or that group is better than another and any crime committed against them will consequently be considered of more importance than if it were committed against that other group. It was always, at best, a stupid idea, and personally I believe the concept behind it to be maliciously motivated. If these “enhanced” crimes are not being prosecuted, good. If a guy kicks someone down a staircase and permanently dislocates his shoulder, he should be doing hard time for that alone. There’s no need for this nonsense about “hate enhancement”. If the left hadn’t spent the last fifty years systematically destroying the concept of personal responsibility, it wouldn’t be twisting itself in knots today trying to justify racism. But then, the left was always racist to the core of its existence, be it the habitual soft bigotry of low expectation, or the more extremist variation in Germany in the 1940s.

David McDowell
David McDowell
5 months ago

Those are very good points. What has happened is that those who find hate crimes most objectionable are those who have grifted the criminal justice system in general into collusion with offenders by setting unrealistic restraints on investigatory powers, evidence and trial. So when a crime matters to them they are obliged to move the goal posts.

Last edited 5 months ago by David McDowell
R Wright
R Wright
5 months ago

One does wonder based on the implications in this article about the group primarily responsible for the surge in anti-Asian and anti-Jewish incidents.

David McDowell
David McDowell
5 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

The article’s author has very wisely self censored himself on that point.

Jim R
Jim R
5 months ago

I’ve always puzzled over how deterrence theory is supposed to work with something like ‘hate’ crime. For starters, there’s no data to support the pervasive belief that increasing the severity of punishment increases the deterrence effect. The data shows that the certainty of getting caught is far more important than ultimate conviction and more severe punishment. But hate is an emotion – and emotions are not pre-meditated. As such there is often no opportunity for any deterrence calculation to be made by a rational potential offender. Perhaps we should just acknowledge that designating crimes to be hate crimes (where penalties are increased due to the presence of hate) is really about retribution. An emotional response by society that demonstrably does nothing to combat the underlying problems.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jim R
Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
5 months ago
Reply to  Jim R

“does nothing”?? In addition to providing for the basic human need of retribution (don’t victims matter?), if long sentences do nothing more than warehouse the dangerous from the rest of us they provide a valuable, and I would say civilization sustaining necessity – without you get NYC. You also do not give deterrence enough credit – the deterrence value of long sentences is not zero, at least for the mentally sane

Jim R
Jim R
5 months ago

You know, the ‘basic human need of retribution’ is on the same emotional spectrum as hate. If you scratch the surface of someone who is full of hate, you will find that there is a real or perceived injury behind it. Ultimately that’s the biggest problem with the concept of hate crime – like so many of the bad ideas floating around today – it turns us all into the very thing we are supposed to be opposing.

Michael Coleman
Michael Coleman
4 months ago
Reply to  Jim R

There is a difference, in particular when the retribution is after a criminal is found guilty but then receives a sentence well below what is common or traditional. People will enact street justice when they feel the official justice system doesn’t provide both protection and yes, the emotional feeling of required retribution.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
5 months ago

But why should there be “hate” crimes at all? Am I not at perfect liberty to hate anybody I like, or they to hate me? There should only be an issue if I act on that hate, and it seems to me that where that happens, the law already has you covered. If I beat up a Jew because I hate Jews, or some Muslim beats me up because he hates Catholics, is there not already a sanction in law for that? “Hate crimes” are just another promethean exercise by the left in their never-ending and increasingly desperate attempt to engineer a new human being. And like everything else the left does, it’s a cultural, ethical, philosophical and intellectual dog.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
5 months ago

I completely agree with you. I’ve never understood why it’s worse to murder someone out of hate than out of love. it’s all a ploy to socially engineer us to become vacuously tolerant of bad behaviors within certain cultural groups.

Cathy Carron
Cathy Carron
4 months ago

Anti-semitism in NYC and in the USA in general, has been surfacing for some time now. Up until recently, we lived on the very Jewish Upper West Side for 35 years. Whenever, I read of an anti-Semitic incident, I passed it on to my Jewish husband, who barely acknowledged it as a ‘thing’. I have long wondered about the Jewish community’s lack of voice, lack of outrage, in this regard and my only conclusion is that a majority of American Jews today would describe themselves as ‘secular’, ‘humanist’ or even ‘atheist’. So anti-Semitism is not about them per se, so why should they care? Most seemed to have enrolled in the ‘woke movement’ and are more focussed on ‘saving the black community’ than their own. An awkward sort of guilt.

Last edited 4 months ago by Cathy Carron