Anti-gay violence in NYC has spiked dramatically this year, according to an article in the Daily News today. A spate of high-profile incidents, including the shocking murder of Marc Carson in Greenwich Village in May, have created the impression that New York is becoming vastly intolerant, and the NYPD's stats indicate that police are on pace to investigate twice the number of anti-gay incidents in 2013 than last year. But are these sorts of hate crimes really increasing so dramatically, or are they simply being reported more?
Sharon Stapel, the Executive Director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project [AVT], says it's too soon to tell if 2013 will see anti-LGBT hate crimes double over 2012. "Reports of violence and the media's attention to the violence is on the rise," Stapel contends. "It also seems true that the NYPD's categorization of incidents as LGBT hate crimes are on the rise. But our numbers so far don't show a huge jump in violence from 2012 to 2013."
The AVT is a community-based organization that provides help to victims of anti-gay violence. Stapel believes her organization's numbers provide a more comprehensive look at such incidents. "We get reports of hate violence through our hotline and through our online reporting mechanism," Stapel explains. "And while we did see a jump in reports at the end of May after we launched a campaign encouraging people to report the violence, so far we have not seen a tremendous increase from 2012 to 2013." (There were five anti-gay incidents reported to the NYPD in May.)
Aside from "the couple of weeks in May when we launched that campaign," Stapel tells us that "tracking month-to-month we're seeing similar numbers [as 2012]. We have a three year trend of increased reports of violence to the NYC Anti-Violence Project, but by much, much smaller percentages than the NYPD's jump from 2012 to 2013. I think our numbers are more comprehensive, in the sense that people report violence to us they might not otherwise report to police."
It goes without saying that even one incident of anti-LGBT violence (or any other such violence, for that matter) is unacceptable, and it's disheartening that in 2013 New Yorkers are still not safe from hate crimes. In the latest incident, on Wednesday morning a couple leaving a Chelsea movie theater was attacked by a group of men spewing anti-gay slurs, resulting in one of the victims being hospitalized with lacerations on his face. And last night an interracial couple was attacked in Long Island City.
"These attacks are hateful, ugly and un-New York," Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "We won’t let homophobia set back the LGBT community’s progress. We won’t let racism take hold where we’ve fought so hard to stamp it out. Whatever has spurred on these acts of violence, we’ll protect our people. New Yorkers have a right to live free from violence and fear. We must do more to affirm that right, by bringing more security cameras into the NYPD network so we can find perpetrators more quickly, and by joining police and communities in closer cooperation."
And City Council Speaker (and mayoral candidate) Christine Quinn told the News, "They think they’re going to make the people and the community they don’t like go away, that they’re going to push us back into the closet. The way that the community and survivors of these attacks have stood up, that’s real bravery, and I think that has inspired others to stand up.”
Anyone with information about hate crime perpetrators is encouraged to report it to the NYPD at 1-800-577-TIPS. And here's how to report violence to the New York Anti-Violence Project.