Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD leaders are concerned about the recent increase in hate crimes across New York City, even as shootings and other violent crime continues to fall to record lows.
Appearing at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City on Wednesday, the mayor appeared to choke back tears as he lamented "what we have seen lately—the uptick in hate crimes—that has affected many communities." He decried the latest series of anti-Semitic incidents, and urged both vigilance and perspective on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht. After facing criticism earlier this week for his slow response to a racist slur found on the African Burial Ground Monument, de Blasio made specific mention of the vandalism at the briefing, calling it "clearly a hate crime."
"Tragically we're seeing many communities affronted," the mayor added. "We’re seeing hate crimes towards the African American community, towards the Jewish community, towards the Muslim community, towards the LGBT community. It all has to stop."
According to the NYPD, there have been 309 hate crimes reported so far this year—up from 297 over the same period in 2017. About half of those reported incidents have been anti-Semitic in nature, police said. Both anti-Semitic incidents and hate crimes overall have soared since the election of Donald Trump two years ago.
Trump responds to @kwelkernbc question about spike in anti-Semitic attacks by saying he's popular in Israel.
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) November 7, 2018
"The increased reports of swastikas and other criminal mischief here in the five boroughs absolutely concerns us," said Police Commissioner James O'Neill, noting that the "current atmosphere" is at least partially to blame.
On Tuesday, police released further information and additional surveillance footage of a group of individuals who allegedly tossed a metal pipe through the window of the Synagogue Volkan on Franklin Avenue in Bed-Stuy. The suspects are believed to be between 12 and 15 years old.
Security camera footage has still not yet been released in the attack on the African Burial Ground Monument, which occurred Thursday just north of City Hall. Asked about the lack of video in that case, Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea acknowledged that there are several cameras in the area, but said that all the footage recovered so far was "extremely grainy."
The comments came as part of the NYPD's monthly briefing on crime stats. Police officials boasted that just 17 murders were committed last month, the lowest number ever recorded in October. Overall, shootings are down 4.7 percent compared to this time last year, and total crime is down 1.4 percent, authorities said.