By COLlive reporter
Photos by Sholem Srugo
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez held a forum in Crown Heights to discuss the disturbing increase in the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City, and in particular in Brooklyn.
The meeting is one of a series being organized in communities throughout the borough to discuss rising incidents of anti-Semitism, during which members of the Jewish community have been harassed and assaulted and Jewish institutions vandalized.
Members of the community and law enforcement gathered at the Jewish Children’s Museum on Wednesday for the event with Gonzalez and Hate Crimes Bureau and Deputy Inspector Mark Molinari, Commanding Officer of the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force.
“As District Attorney, I am committed to keeping the people of Brooklyn safe, and bringing the perpetrators of hate crimes to justice,” Gonzalez said.
Activist Devorah Halberstam, co-founder of the Jewish Children’s Museum, was the host and moderator for the evening. Halberstam spoke about the importance of the community asking questions and demanding answers from our law enforcement agencies, and made sure each participant had a chance to be heard.
Michael Miller of the JCRC, was invited to give remarks.
Halberstam received an award from the DA, in appreciation for pushing to arrange the event and for advocating for the safety of the community.
In their joint remarks, DA Gonzalez and Deputy Inspector Molinari spoke about the Hate Crimes Bureau’s work combatting these heinous crimes.
The DA stated that hate crimes are taken very seriously and are of the utmost importance to the DA and NYPD since in the case of a hate crime, it is not just one victim, but an entire community that is victimized.
The DA explained that a crime being designated as a hate crime pushes up the seriousness of the crime and can lead to a more severe punishment for the perpetrator. He also explained that it is very difficult to prove, since it is necessary to prove not just that an act of violence was done, but that it was done to a specific person because of their identity.
Deputy Inspector Molinari spoke about how seriously the NYPD takes hate crime incidents, and urged residents to report anything that might possibly be a hate crime, since it must be reported to his office for review and investigated seriously.
This was followed by a question and answer session, with community residents asking questions and expressing concerns about recent hate crimes and the follow up by the NYPD.
While residents expressed appreciation for the hard work of the NYPD, some expressed concern about police response time, visibility, and follow up.
Questions ranged from educating residents on peaceful co-existence between different communities, to questions about follow up from the NYPD after violent incidents, with some resident expressing concern that incidents that had happened to them were not taken seriously enough or they did not receive any follow up from the police afterwards.
Inspector Francis Giordano of the local NYPD 71st Precinct promised to follow up and address the concerns. He noted that since the beginning of this year, 24 extra officers had been assigned to the precinct to address this issue.
The DA also praised the leadership of Crown Heights Jewish Community Council (CHJCC) directed by Eli Cohen and Chanina Sperlin for advocating for the community and bringing attention to this issue.