Members of the New York City Council are pushing for the creation of an Office of Hate Crimes Prevention, in response to the rising number of hate crimes.

Speaking in front on City Hall on Tuesday, Councilman Mark Levine said the office would serve as an umbrella organization, one that would streamline coordination between other city agencies in the wake of a hate crime.

“They’ve come for a synagogue, they’ve come for a church, they’ve come for a mosque, they’ve come for our universities, they’ve come for our African Burial Ground,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, who is partnering with Levine on the legislation. “When will it stop?”

Pushing back against the common perception that New York is better off than other places when it comes to bigotry, Levine’s office cited data from the Center for the Study of Hate Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino: “Hate crimes in [New York City] rose 12.4 percent in 2016; much more than the 4.6 percent national rise, propelled by a massive spike in the weeks following the presidential election." According to the NYPD, there were 309 hate crimes reported as of November 7th of this year—up slightly from 2017, a year that saw a dramatic rise in hate crimes both in New York City and nationwide.

To that end, President Trump featured prominently in Tuesday’s press conference, although he often went unnamed.

“The one thing that the Orange Man has done, [he] has organized us,” said Councilman Jumaane Williams. “If we were organized before and realized the humanity we all shared, the Orange Madness would not be here.”

“It’s not lost on any of us that the current epidemic of hate crimes that we’re living through started at almost the exact moment that Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign,” said Levine. “And it has only built as he has continued to poison the rhetoric in this country.”

Levine said the Mayor’s office was currently “supportive” of the proposal. According to an aide the measure has seven cosponsors. The City Council has not yet said how much city money would be allocated to fund the office.

If created, an Office of Hate Crimes Prevention would work not just with the NYPD, said Levine, but with “the schools to coordinate education,” and well as the Department of Health and the Administration for Children’s Services.

He said the city needs “better tracking and reporting” of hate crimes data. He also called for better training of youth to build “open lines of communication” with law enforcement officials.

“There’s more we can do to up our game and we want this office to focus on that,” Levine said.

In response to the proposal, Albert Fox Cahn, Legal Director at the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, noted that his office had recorded a 974% state-wide increase in anti-Muslim harassment, discrimination and hate crimes from 2015 to 2017.

“While we believe that the Office of Hate Crimes Prevention could offer valuable services, we want to know how the office will counter the systemic barriers that block so many hate crime victims in marginalized communities from reporting their attacks,” Cahn wrote in an email.

“Sadly, we still receive reports of victims who are wrongly turned away by responding officers, told that their hate crimes shouldn’t be investigated. Any effort to better analyze existing city data on hate crimes must account for how some of our most vulnerable communities are not counted when it matters most,” he said.

Councilman Richards said the new office would help the city move away “from the reactive approach to violent hate crimes” and coordinate efforts between different communities.

"The simple message that we’re sending today is, when they come for one of us, they come for all of us."

Arun Venugopal is a reporter who focuses on issues of race and immigration at WNYC. You can follow him on Twitter at @arunNYC.