Brooklyn stands as one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. Most of the time, that diversity is celebrated or at least taken in stride as a part of living in the city’s most populous borough. However, Brooklyn also leads the state in hate crimes.
Between the passing of the Hate Crimes Act in 2000 and the end of 2008, Brooklyn led all state counties in hate crime convictions, a trend that appeared to continue through the end of last year.
In 2011, according to data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, Brooklyn recorded 106 hate crimes, noticeably more than any other county – Nassau came in second with 62. As for the other boroughs, Manhattan had 60, Queens 50, the Bronx 18 and Staten Island recorded eight. Last year followed a trend that has been common in recent years. Over 2007 to 2011, Brooklyn had 576 hate crimes incidents – 31 percent more than Nassau, the next highest county.
When it comes to convictions, the difference in raw numbers between Brooklyn and the rest of the state has been stark.
It’s unclear whether Brooklyn’s high number of reported hate crimes reflects a high level of community attention, a greater tendency by Kings County prosecutors to bring such charges or Brooklyn’s size and diversity.
It’s also unclear whether the hate crimes laws, as currently written, are sufficiently broad to encompass all the bias crimes that occur in Brooklyn or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, some wonder if political pressure and a vague statute have led to crimes being labeled “hateful” when bigotry is not a motive. And of course, there’s the question of whether hate crimes prosecutions actually act to reduce hate and deter such crimes from happening in the future.
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