Nearly half the people arrested in connection to hate crime attacks this year have previously been designated as emotionally disturbed, the head of the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force told members of the City Council.

Speaking at an oversight hearing Tuesday, Deputy Inspector Andrew Arias said that out of 100 suspects arrested in 2022, 47 "have prior documentation of an EDP incident,” using the NYPD acronym for an emotionally disturbed person, which the patrolmen’s guide tells uniformed officers is “a person who appears to be mentally ill or temporarily deranged.”

Arias also told the virtual hearing that there had been 202 confirmed hate crimes in the city between January 1st and May 1st, a 27% increase from the same period in 2021.

“Anti-Semitic incidents increased the most this year, increasing by 72%,” he said. “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic there was an alarming increase in hate crimes targeting Asian/Pacific Islander individuals. While hate crimes against our Asian community members are down 62% compared to 2021, with 67 last year and 25 in the same period this year, this number is still significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

The hearing comes in the wake of a number of high-profile attacks on Asian New Yorkers, including the death of GuiYing Ma, who was fatally bludgeoned outside her home in Queens; Christina Yuna Lee, who was stabbed to death inside her lower Manhattan home; and Michelle Go, who died after being pushed off a subway platform.

Policing and mental health

The attacks have heightened scrutiny of NYPD policing, tactics and staffing, and prompted fresh questions about city efforts to deliver mental health services to the needy, including unsheltered people living in public spaces.

“Forty-seven percent of hate crimes being committed by emotionally disturbed people is no surprise to any of us,” said Council Member Julie Won in an emailed statement. “The current shelter and criminal justice systems do not have timely, consistent mental health screenings or long term mental health care to ensure that repeated offenders of violent crimes or anyone that could be a danger to themselves or others receives any impactful treatment that could stop these violent events.”

Harvey Rosenthal, the CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, told Gothamist he hadn’t seen the figures cited by the NYPD, “and I don’t know who’s making these diagnoses and how accurate they are.”

Friends and family of Christina Yuna Lee plant a memorial tree in Prospect Park in honor of Lee, who was slain inside her Chinatown apartment in February.

Friends and family of Christina Yuna Lee plant a memorial tree in Prospect Park in honor of Lee, who was slain inside her Chinatown apartment in February.

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Friends and family of Christina Yuna Lee plant a memorial tree in Prospect Park in honor of Lee, who was slain inside her Chinatown apartment in February.
Arun Venugopal

People with mental illness, he said, accounted for just 4% of violent acts committed nationally. MentalHealth.gov, a site operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, puts the figure at 3%-5%). Rosenthal pointed to a study by the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions that found “that just under three per cent of people suffering from severe mental illness had acted violently in the last year, as compared to just under one per cent of the general population.”

“I think that all too often random episodes of violence, tragic violence, are used to scapegoat people with mental illness,” he said.

During the hearing, Arias acknowledged NYPD’s shortcomings when dealing with people with mental illness.

“I think we have to improve in our partnering with mental health professionals to ensure that there’s a holistic treatment for people that may have mental health issues,” Arias said.

Underreported cases?

Won, who represents Long Island City, Sunnyside, Astoria, and Woodside, attended the Tuesday hearing and said “underreporting” affected the collection of hate crimes data for Asian Americans, arguing that “culturally, it is harder for Asian Americans, especially immigrants to make these reports.”

She also expressed concern about reports that senior officials with the Hate Crime Task Force had downplayed incidents of anti-Asian harassment brought to the attention of police. Since then, those officials have been reassigned, but Won asked why Asian New Yorkers had been “dismissed, mocked and laughed at” when attempting to bring incidents to the NYPD.

In response, Arias said he wasn’t aware of the details concerning those episodes under his predecessors.

“I’d like to reassure you on the seriousness with which we investigate these crimes,” he said. “We are taking it very seriously.”

Rosenthal said the emphasis by New York state and city government on “criminalization and confinement” for people with mental illness was “reprehensible.”

“We’re failed by the system,” he said. “Too many of us are in the criminal justice system, irresponsibly. And it’s our responsibility not to sweep people away and lock them up or label them as a threat.”