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Report: 1 of 118 anti-Jewish hate crimes in NYC resulted in significant prison term

Former Assembly Dov Hikind says ‘the idea that we are tough on hate crimes is an absolute farce’

Americans Against Anti-Semitism, a group founded by former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind, said it has reviewed all anti-Jewish bias crimes in New York City since 2018 and found only one case in which a suspect was convicted of a hate crime and sentenced to a significant prison term.

The report, which Hikind plans to highlight at a news conference on Tuesday morning, tracked 118 cases in which mostly visibly Orthodox Jews were harassed with antisemitic slurs or assaulted. The group acknowledged that it was unable to track suspects in 34 of the cases.

“When it comes to anti-Jewish hate crimes in NYC,” the report said, “there are practically no serious consequences to be had or severe punishments to be faced by very violent and hateful criminals who’ve caused significant physical, emotional and psychological damage to their victims.”

The New York Police Department referred questions about the new report to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. A spokesman for the Brooklyn D.A. said the report was “incomplete and incorrect,” offering some specific examples of cases in which Hikind’s group failed to see the complete picture.

Some critics also raised questions about the report’s methodology, noting that it relied on a database called WebCrimes, in which cases no longer appear after they have been resolved. 

The report comes as the NYPD and the Anti Defamation League have chronicled an increase in antisemitic attacks. In the first three months of 2022, the city recorded 86 anti-Jewish crimes, a rate on track to top the 242 reported in 2019; hate crimes, like all crimes, dipped during the pandemic. In 2021, according to the NYPD, 198 of 524 hate crimes reported in the city targeted Jews.

Scott Richman, regional director for the Anti Defamation League in New York and New Jersey, said the group stands by its “record of providing on-the-ground support to victims and communities and working side-by-side with law enforcement to make sure such crimes are given the priority they deserve.”

The report says that its analysis found that Jews were “the most targeted group by volume and per capita.” Broadly, experts believe that Jews are more likely than other minority groups to report bias crimes because of better relationships with the police and government. 

Hikind, who grew up in a Haredi family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, created the antisemitism advocacy group after retiring in 2018 from the Assembly, where he had served since 1983. 

To develop its report, the group said it conducted a “systematic search” of relevant hate crime reports since 2018 and then created a “data tool that uses machine learning to find relevant news reports, turn them into trackable cases, and connect with the WebCrimes court system” to automatically update the status of each case.    

It cited at least a half-dozen cases in which antisemitic slurs were hurled at  Jews and “it does not appear that there were any judicial consequences.” In some of those cases, it said, the victims were also hit or spit upon.

One example is Glenn Murto, 28, who was arrested in 2019 and charged with seven hate crimes for a vandalism spree in the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn between January and April of that year. The authorities accused Murto of placing stickers around the neighborhood containing swastikas and messages including “Jews are poisoning our children.” 

The report said it is “unclear if Murto faced any actual consequences for his conduct, as there is no information publicly available regarding a plea deal or conviction.”

 Another case spotlighted in the report concerns Farrukh Afzal, a livery driver, who was accused in 2018 of stopping his car in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, exiting his vehicle and chasing a pedestrian, Lipa Schwartz, 62, and beating him. Passersby were able to subdue Afzal, 37, who was also suspected of earlier trying to run over an Orthodox man. 

Afzal, who had at least eight prior arrests, is now awaiting trial on charges including assault as a hate crime.

The lone case highlighted by the report in which a person was convicted and given what the group calls a significant punishment was that of James Vincent, 40, who was sentenced to 11 years for charges including strangulation and a hate crime after shouting antisemitic slurs and beating Menachem Moskowitz, 52, as he walked home from synagogue in 2018. Even in that case, Hikind’s group complained that it took more than three years.

The spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney said the delay was caused by multiple psychiatric evaluations.

Hikind said in an interview that many cases appeared to have “disappeared, got lost in the system or were reduced to something less than a hate crime,“ adding: ”This is what’s wrong with our system.”

Hikind noted that the state legislature had increased the severity of punishments for bias crimes, but said that “in reality none of that happens.”

“The idea that we are tough on hate crimes is an absolute farce, an absolute joke,” Hikind said.

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