NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – With hate crimes on the rise, New York City has created a new office to try and prevent them.
CBS2’s Alice Gainer spoke with the woman in charge to see how she plans to take on the issue.
Deborah Lauter is the new executive director of the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, or OPHC.
“I think all New Yorkers should be appalled at what we’re seeing,” Lauter said.
What we’re seeing is an increase in hate crimes – in the past week, several anti-Semitic attacks. There have been 146 anti-Semitic hate crime complaints for 2019, according to the NYPD. That’s compared to 88 for the same period last year.
“In this country, you have a right to be a bigot. It’s protected. It’s what we’re seeing now is people being emboldened to act out on that bigotry,” Lauter said.
Lauter, who previously worked at the Anti-Defamation League and is Jewish, says back in the ’90s she too was the victim of a hate crime in Atlanta and knows what it feels like.
“I realized how much it went to my identity, and how much fear it raised,” Lauter said.
Right now, she’s the only one working in the office. She says she’s in the process of hiring a handful of staffers. She’s only been on the job for a week, and also has yet to meet the mayor and NYPD.
Plans include an inter-agency committee made up of the NYPD, City Commission on Human Rights, Department of Education, Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“It’s also a think thank. How can we do things in a more holistic way,” Lauter said.
She says education with children is key, along with proactive outreach to community groups and more intervention efforts before an incident occurs.
“A hate crime against one is a hate crime against all,” said Councilman Chaim Deutsch.
Lauter is looking to create a web page so all resources will be easily accessible.
Lauter adds that hate crimes are under-reported and her office is scheduled to open at the end of November – ahead of time.
While she started a week ago, she says she wishes we didn’t need such an office.