The good news is that hate crimes in New York City for the first quarter of the year dropped by 25 percent compared to the same time frame in 2019. The bad news is that anti-Asian hate crimes jumped by a margin of nearly 227 percent.
Recently released NYPD data show that of the 84 hate crime complaints reported for the months of January to April, 11 were motivated by anti-Asian sentiment. The four-month total is higher than the yearly totals for anti-Asian hate crimes in 2019, 2018 and 2017, making it the highest rate since such records were kept. Additionally, of the 23 arrests made for racially motivated crimes during the first quarter, 39.1 percent were committed with an anti-Asian bias, compared to only 6.1 percent in 2019.
“As millions across the nation are worried about and impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, many are also living in fear following the dramatic increase of threats and attacks against different communities due to the rise in COVID-19-related bigotry and hate. Many are afraid of abusive and violent acts being committed against them and their loved ones,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said in a statement announcing legislation to combat the rising prejudice against Asian Americans.
The bill, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act or HR6721, would provide greater federal government oversight of COVID-19 hate crimes. It would also require the Department of Justice to provide Congress with monthly updates on the status of reported bias incidents, including any resources provided to complainants and actions taken to further investigate those incidents, with data disaggregated by victim’s race, ethnicity, socioeconomic background and the location at which the crime occurred.
The DOJ would be required to continue the reports for at least until one year after the COVID-19 public health emergency is lifted.
“During this time of heightened anxiety, we must do everything possible to protect the safety of every single person – no matter their race, ethnicity, religion or background,” Meng said. “The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is a necessary step to confront this disgusting and deplorable rise in intolerance and violence, and I urge all my colleagues to join my effort to fight these bias crimes, and keep all Americans safe.”
Asians are not the only victims of hate crimes, according to Meng, who mentioned that “the pandemic has also fueled a rise in anti-Semitic incidents against the Jewish community.”
Crimes against Jewish Americans dominated hate reports in 2019, accounting for 55 percent. Although reported hate incidents against the religion decreased by 9 percent compared to the first quarter of last year, they were still the leading hate crime for the first quarter of 2020 — 53.5 percent of hate crimes were driven by anti-Semitism.
City Councilmember Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), who sits on the Jewish Caucus, said that he supports Meng’s bill because the federal government has a responsibility to monitor hate crimes across the country and report their incidence back to the people.
“It’s very distressing, but not surprising,” Lancman said of the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. “You have the president of the United States trying to incite people to be hostile to China and some small percentage of the population translates that into anti-Asian hate. We saw this with the rise of anti-Semitism under the Trump administration and hate crimes, and as the president turns his hate toward China we see the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.”