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Comptroller to Audit NY Hate Crimes

Associated Press

Saturday December 7, 2013

ALBANY, N.Y. - The New York comptroller's office announced Friday that it will audit hate crime reporting statewide after a legislator earlier this year cited an apparent spike in such crimes.

Auditors will examine the state Division of Criminal Justice Services' handling of annual reports culled from police data. The DCJS report last month showed 720 hate crimes statewide in 2012, up almost 30 percent from a year earlier. Most of the increase was in New York City and Suffolk County, which had made changes in its reporting process.

"Hatred against people because of their race, religion or sexual orientation has no place in a civil society," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. "We need to make sure police departments across the state are reporting these incidents correctly and that they are being trained to handle the crimes properly and effectively."

The audit is scheduled to begin next week, with results reported sometime next year.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, requested the audit. He cited in August a string of recent hostilities against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the city and a 27 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents statewide in 2012.

In October testimony to the New York City Council on Civil Rights, Hoylman said that through mid-August the New York Police Department reported 68 anti-gay hate crimes this year, including 41 assaults, up from 54 for all of 2012.

"These crimes, which included two murders, are a shocking reminder of the intolerance and hate still present in the city," he said.

According to DCJS, hate crimes may be underreported for various reasons: Police investigators may not document bias as motivation for a crime; people in the country illegally are less likely to report being victims; and some police agencies don't forward hate crime data to the state, which collects it and submits the data to the FBI.

DCJS spokeswoman Janine Kava said the agency will work with the auditors. The division, required by law to issue the hate crimes report annually, has trained hundreds of police and established a model policy for responding to and investigating incidents, she said.

The U.S. Justice Department said this week that it had reached tentative agreement with the Suffolk County Police Department to enhance investigations of hate crimes and bias. The agreement follows the 2008 hate crime killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant.

Suffolk County has seen an influx of immigrants from Central and South America in the past 15 years. The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report after the killing, documenting repeated attacks on Hispanics in the county since 2000.

The announcement Tuesday followed a 2011 Justice Department missive that called for the Suffolk County Police Department to provide enhanced training of police officers, as well as improved investigations of hate crimes and bias.

County Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said the 2012 spike in Suffolk County hate crimes resulted mostly from reclassifying graffiti, such as swastikas. About 1,000 of the county's 2,450 officers have gotten training in handling and reporting hate crimes and its Justice Department agreement will include retraining everyone yearly.

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