A rash of attacks against Orthodox Jews in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park last weekend suggests that residents are reluctant to report such crimes to police.
And the tendency is leading to new calls by Jewish leaders and politicians urging hate crime victims to report the incidents to the NYPD.
David Pollock, associate executive director at the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, said that in Crown Heights and Williamsburg, where hate crime victims more readily make reports to the police, they see results.
“They have a really, really good track record of closing these things,” said Pollock, who is also the JCRC’s director of public policy and Jewish security. “There have been several arrests in Crown Heights and in Williamsburg there have been arrests in nearly every case.”
Yeshiva World News reported that the victims are “hesitant to make reports with the NYPD, as even if the suspects are arrested, they will only be charged with ‘harassment.’”
Brighton Beach Councilman Chaim Deutsch, a member of the Council’s public safety committee, sent out a tweet Saturday night encouraging hate crime victims to come forward.
The Borough Park victims have been hesitant to report hate crimes, Deutsch told The Jewish Week, because “they didn’t think it would make a difference.”
“We had to get them to come forward,” he said. “We explained that it was important find out who the people were and for them to be held accountable.”
Hate crimes against Jews have steadily increased here in the last year. Such crimes in New York City are up 63 percent with 163 reported in the first nine months of 2019 compared to 108 reported in the same period in 2018, according to the NYPD.
The incidents of harassment and assault in Borough Park began shortly after midnight on Saturday morning when a car stopped on New Utrecht Avenue and 53rd Street. Several men got out and chased two chasidic boys. Soon after, what appeared to be the same car — a dark sedan — passed two Jews near 14th Avenue and 48th Street, according to The Jewish Press. One of the passengers reached out of the car window and punched a man who was walking with his wife.
The man wasn’t injured, said Motti Katz, a coordinator of the Borough Park Shomrim, a neighborhood watch group, because the attacker wasn’t able to “get a good swing at him” from the car.
A few minutes later, what appears to be the same car stopped at 14th Avenue and 51st Street. Several men got out and chased a Jewish man. The man screamed and the men returned to the car, according to The Jewish Press.
The fourth incident took place near 14th Avenue and 53rd Street, according to Katz, who told The Jewish Week he didn’t have additional details on that incident.
Asked for confirmation of the incidents, the NYPD responded with a statement noting that it “has the largest Hate Crime Task Force in the country” and works “tirelessly … to vigorously investigate every reported hate crime.”
An NYPD spokeswoman didn’t confirm any of the four incidents above, but did give details of a fifth, which took place just before midnight Saturday night. According to the report, a 16-year-old boy told cops that he was at the corner of 14th Avenue and 55th Street when a man in a dark-colored sedan urged a teen to approach him. The teen fled and the man chased him. The teen was not injured.
In most of the cases, the victims immediately reported the crimes to the Shomrim, the neighborhood watch group, but apparently not to the police. After some convincing by area leaders all but one of the victims had made reports by Tuesday afternoon, Jewish leaders said.
But, to Pollock’s point, two days before the incidents in Borough Park, on Thursday, Oct. 31, in Crown Heights, the victims called the police right away and the officers made an arrest on the spot, according to the NYPD.
In that incident, a group of teenage girls called the Shomrim Thursday evening after they began to feel threatened by a group of teenage boys they identified as African-American. When the Shomrim arrived, the boys threw eggs at them, according to Pollock.
Police arrived when the Shomrim called them and arrested an 18-year-old man. He was charged with assault for punching one of the Shomrim in the face, the NYPD said.
Katz said the attacks have “put a scare on parents to let their kids go out at night,” but that in general the community isn’t noticeably more fearful. “Nobody is locking their doors,” he said. “People are still going out.”
He said the Shomrim has sent out “extra manpower” on patrol and they have been working “hand in hand” with the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, who are in Borough Park investigating “as we speak,” he said. He also noted that the NYPD has “put out extra cops” and set up a command center at the corner of 14th Avenue and 49th Street.
“People are saying if these incidents happen, as long as they make reports, the NYPD will do the right thing and catch these people,” Katz said.
Other area leaders say they see more fear and less trust of the police in Borough Park.
“There is a sense of hopelessness, [a sense that] this is the new norm, we have to live with it,” said Avi Greenstein, CEO of the Borough Park Jewish Community Council.
“People are terrified and people feel unprotected and there needs to be a strong presence by the police, and there needs to be a stronger partnership between the NYPD and community organizations such as the BPJCC,” he added.
He thinks that work needs to be done to build the community’s trust that reporting crimes to the NYPD is productive.